Friday, September 16, 2016

Remembering The Plutos: French Lick’s Baseball Team

 
By Joy Neighbors
Dateline: Summer 1912 – 1914
Ah summer – the crack of the bat, the cheers of the crowds – baseball was in full swing once again. But now that West Baden Springs Hotel owner Lee Sinclair had his own hotel baseball team, rival hotel owner Tom Taggart decided to introduce a team from French Lick Springs Hotel – The Plutos.
Named after the hotel’s mascot – a red devil said to resemble Pluto, ruler of the underworld – the team was made up of local hotel staff. The Plutos (also known as the Red Devils) were an early Independent Negro League baseball club that entertained guests and locals alike. The club began in 1912 and played countless games against their “rivals” – the West Baden Sprudels with some games played at Pluto Park and others at the Sprudels’s ballfield located inside the double decker bicycle track at West Baden Springs Hotel.
During the three years the Plutos existed, the club played 62 games, winning 23, losing 37 and tying only two times. From 1912 – 1914, the closest the team placed in the Western Independent Clubs was 6th in 1913. The top hitters and pitchers for each of the three years were as follows:
Dicta Johnson
The 1912, Plutos were managed by H. P. Warmack. The top hitter was James “Big Jim” Norman and the top pitcher was Louis “Dicta” Johnson, known for his spitball.
In 1913, Sam Gordon took on managerial duties for the team. Henry “Mack” McLaughlin was the top hitter and James Lynch the top pitcher.

Sam Gordon
For their final year, Gordon continued to manage and Arthur Gilliard was named top pitcher.
The most popular team members for the team’s three year duration were:
Todd Allen – 3rd baseman (1914)

Mule Armstrong

George Isaac “Mule” Armstrong – Catcher (1912)

William “Bingo” Bingham – Outfielder (1914)
Sam Crow – Infielder (1914)
Elwood “Bingo” DeMoss – 2nd baseman (1912 – 1914)
Dizzy Dismukes
William “Dizzy” Dismukes – Pitcher who also played for the WB Sprudels (1913)
Henry Hannon Jr. – Outfielder – 1913 - 1914
Dan Kennard – Catcher – (1913 – 1914)
Harry Moore – Utility player (1913)

When the Plutos dissolved, team members spread out around the Midwest taking positions on numerous Independent Negro League teams. In 1920, the Negro National League was formed and professional Black baseball became a force to reckon with.