From the Fortune Teller’s Tent to the Big Leagues: The Incredible Story of Charles Faust and His Time with the New York Giants
Based on nothing more than a prediction, Faust spent several years chasing a baseball dream that ended with him on an MLB mound
The pursuit of dreams can be a funny business. If you believe in something strongly enough and put in the effort, there are few things that are truly impossible. More than a century ago, a visit to a county fair fortune teller combined with possible escalating mental illness helped convince simple Midwesterner without a speck of athletic ability that he was destined to become a major league baseball player and help the powerful New York Giants win a pennant. Despite the extraordinarily unusual circumstances, he achieved what he set out to do, spending parts of several years with the team, pitching in two games, helping them win three consecutive pennants and mightily frustrating them along the way. This wasn’t a construct of Hollywood. It was the real life of Charles Victor (Victory) Faust.
Faust was born on October 9, 1880, as the first of six children to John and Eva Faust in Marion, Kansas — a thriving community of 857. The Fausts had emigrated from Germany and settled on a modest farm where they worked hard to make a living. It was a demanding existence, which was sadly reflected in them outliving four of their children. While one son ultimately took over the management of the farm, Charles was seen as slow-witted and in no condition to do anything of industrious substance. This supposedly made him a disappointment to his family, who needed every available hand to keep things going. However, some combination of intellectual disability and/or mental illness were a definite possibility for inhibiting him.
In the summer of 1911, having turned 30 and possessing no real direction, Charles visited a local county fair and found a new purpose in his life. He later claimed that he visited the tent of a fortune teller, who told him that he was destined to not only pitch for the New York Giants of the National League, but to lead them to the World Series.
As one of the most annually successful squads, and playing in the largest city in the country, the Giants were perhaps the best-known major league baseball team in the world. As if the original prediction wasn’t enough good news, the fortune teller also told Faust that he would marry a woman from California named Lulu. For some reason now unknown (perhaps he enjoyed the single life), he decided to singularly focus on what he believed was his destiny in professional baseball.
The Giants were helmed by manager John McGaw, who had jumped to the team from the Baltimore Orioles and the American League in the midst of the 1902 season. In the near decade since he had won two pennants, a World Series and generally had his squad in the hunt. He was also one of the best-known and most powerful figures in the game.
In particular, pitching was a strength of the Giants. Led by veteran Christy Mathewson and the young Rube Marquard, who would both ultimately become Hall of Famers, there was no starting rotation with a better one-two punch in the National League. Solid veterans Hooks Wiltse and Red Ames, along with 23-year-old Doc Crandall provided a level of depth that was the envy of most teams.
What would normally seem like a daunting absurdity of believing the prediction of a fortune teller mattered little to Faust. The wild assertions of a lady plying her trade from the depths of a tent may have been some of the first positive reinforcement he had ever received. If she believed he was going to play baseball and lead the Giants to glory, he was going to do whatever necessary to bring it to fruition. As luck would have it, right after his visit to the fair New York was playing in St. Louis against the Cardinals, which was the closest to tiny Marion they would ever play. Armed with the riotousness of the affirmed, he made the 400-mile journey to see the two teams at Robison Field on July 29th.
Unlike modern times, fans attending games had much easier access to not only the action, but sometimes to the teams as well. Incredibly, Faust was able to jump start his dream by making contact with McGraw. How this was done is now a mystery but have been as simple as hailing him as he entered the stadium.
The pugnacious skipper was known as a superstitious sort, who would consider anything that might give him and his team an advantage. He was also a snappy authoritarian, with a soft spot for hard-luck cases. Faust told him who he was and what brought him to St. Louis. It will never be known if his motivations were altruistic or he was having a laugh, but McGraw allowed Faust to come on to the field prior to the game to give a demonstration of his baseball skills. A tryout!
The reality of the situation struck quickly. Wearing his best suit of Sunday clothes, the lanky 6’2” Faust was already ill-equipped to play ball before it became apparent that he also possessed next to no athletic ability. If McGraw ever held a modicum of hope that the strange stranger might be a diamond in the rough, such a sunny outlook was quickly dashed.
Faust could be generously described as a soft tosser and ambled more than he ran. There was nothing readily noticeable about him that he could help a youth baseball team, let along the third-place Giants, who were playing well, but below expectations.
McGraw even put on a glove and took throws from Faust. After seeing the decided lack of velocity, he started catching him barehanded, likely as an effort to embarrass and dissuade the hopeful pitcher and also elicit laughs from his players and the buzzing crowd.
Many years later, former Giants outfielder Fred Snodgrass, who was present that day, described in detail to author Lawrence Ritter in his seminal work of The Glory of Their Times what Faust looked like on the pitching mound. “His windup was like a windmill. Both arms went around in circles for quite a while before Charlie finally let go of the ball. Well, regardless of the sign that McGraw would give, the ball would come up just the same. There was no difference in his pitches whatsoever. And there was no speed — probably enough to break a plane of glass, but that was about all.”
The tryout culminated with the laughing manager convincing Faust to round the bases as the New York infielders intentionally made wild throws to get him to slide into each base. At the end of the exercise his clothing was torn, and his skin was scraped and bruised. He was also ecstatic.
The Giants had been incredulous about his story and then unable to control their laughter after they saw how impossibly bad he was at the game he believed he was about to conquer. Unsurprisingly, there was no player contract forthcoming for the hopeful Kansan. However, the Giants beat the Cardinals 8–0 behind a four-hit shutout from Marquard.
Not having been sufficiently discouraged, Faust showed up to the park again on the 30th. The players, apparently having thoroughly enjoyed toying with him the day before, found him a spare uniform and let him do some more basic throwing, base running and gallivanting around the field. Once again, the shenanigans fancied the tickle bone of the players and fans. The Giants also won again convincingly, hammering the Cardinals 6–0 behind a two-hit shutout by Wiltse. The also won again the following day, to take three games out of the four-game series.
Everyone’s laughter washed right off Faust’s back. The attention and affirmation, even if it was false encouragement, was like nothing he had experienced before. To him, he was tantalizingly close to his goal and the what others saw as clowning was a reinforcement to him that he was on the right track.
As the team left St. Louis, the fun (at least for McGraw) was over. It must have then been incredible, if not startling, when Faust showed up at the railroad station, prepared to take to the road with the Giants. Having believed he had proven his ability and worth, he wanted to formally join the team. Unprepared for the continued aggressiveness, the Giants unceremoniously ditched the gullible man before heading off to Pittsburgh. Two similar stories exist as to what happened, but both have McGraw sending him back to the team’s hotel on a fool’s errand — to retrieve either his contract or his train ticket. (Neither, of course, existed).
The multiple audiences that McGraw had granted Faust only emboldened the young man’s persistence. Not knowing Faust’s true capacity or background, it’s impossible to say how understanding he was of his surroundings and circumstances at the time. Regardless, his obvious gullibility is something that still invokes a twinge of sadness when thinking of the highs and lows he must have experienced with each small affirmation and corresponding crushing setback.
The Giants struggled on the remainder of their road trip, winning just two of six games against the Pirates and Chicago Cubs. If McGraw thought he had shaken the rube who wanted to be signed to a contract, he was sorely mistaken. When the team returned home to the Polo Ground in New York, Faust was waiting there for them, ready as ever to join the roster.
As a side note, it would be endlessly fascinating to know how Faust financed his journeys. Not known to hold a regular job, and coming from a farming family of modest means, where did the money come from to allow him to chase his dreams in such an aggressive fashion?
Perhaps he lost the war of attrition and perhaps he recognized that the team seemed to do well when the persistent Faust was around, but McGraw relented and allowed the Kansan to join the squad on a full-time basis. After all, superstition was an important component of baseball and could make or break the pennant chances of a contender. At the same time, the Philadelphia Athletics employed a hunch-backed dwarf named Louis Van Zelst as an official good luck charm. His job consisted primarily of simply being present and letting players rub his back to draw whatever mystical power they thought they were extracting for their own good.
The horrific and gross exploitation of it all mattered little, as someone in Van Zelst’s condition was often seen as a freak and had a hard time finding their place in society. Holding such an important, if not undignified place with a professional baseball team was a major coup for someone in his position at the time.
Faust was still fully under the illusion that he was joining the Giants to help the team with his baseball skill — specifically pitching. Whether or not he understood that he was being accommodated purely because of the belief that his presence was a luck influencer; a jinx breaker; a charm, is unknown. Nevertheless, the ability to join the squad in any capacity was yet another step for him to move forward on the dream he had so resolutely set before leaving his farm home.
Because he wasn’t considered a player on the official roster, Faust didn’t sign a contract upon joining the Giants. Some who have written on this intriguing baseball personality have indicated he never had an official agreement with the team. However, that belief is false. On March 3, 1912, the New York Times wrote an article that described a contract that was written on the back of an old linen shirt collar in hand by lead pencil by Faust. It had the extremely important next step of actually being approved in ink by National League President Thomas Lynch. The pact read: “I hereby do put my hand and seal to this contract to play baseball the season of 1911–1912 with the New York Baseball Club of the National League. Chas. V. Faust.”
It was also reported that in 1912 Giants owner John T. Brush sent secretary J.D. O’Brien the contract, with the intent on having it framed and hung at the team’s office as a “curio.” This is an important detail, as the question of whether or not Faust had a contract would come into play later. However, there was no mention of salary or anything that made it much of anything beyond a joke, or at best, an effort to placate a disturbed man.
Clearly, the document (as much as a ripped shirt can be considered a document) was yet another opportunity to have a joke at Faust’s expense. It will never be known if he knew he was being laughed at and led along, and even if he did, it seems he believed he was part of the team as much as any of the players.
Regardless of the intent or purpose, Faust, who just weeks earlier had been a nobody in the middle of nowhere, Kansas was now suiting up for the New York Giants, who were in the thick of a pennant race with the Cubs. It turned out, at least from the standpoint of what many believed, that the new addition was a real difference maker.
In 1911, the Giants were an incredible 36–2 when Faust was in uniform during the regular season. In games where he wasn’t on the bench, they were a pedestrian 63–52–1. New York pitcher Red Ames, known as “Kalamity” for often struggling with bad luck, declared, “I’m glad Faust is going to stick because he certainly has brought good luck to us all…He is a great man for the team even if he never gets a chance to pitch.”
Within three weeks of arriving in New York, Faust was popular enough to be signed up for a Vaudeville engagement. To be fair, the circuit was in full bloom at the time, and companies raced to show any individual or act that might have name recognition or appeal to an audience.
The Giants not only lost three games after he started his new job, but he was predictably not very good at it. To be fair, expecting a small-town guy to be a natural on the New York stage was a major ask. He quickly returned to his baseball gig full-time, joining the team on a lengthy road trip. Sticking to the script, they won the first ten games with him back in the fold.
Faust became the star of extended pre-game activities. He shagged fly balls (getting conked on the head more than once) and demonstrated an array of clumsy slides while running the bases. He occasionally warmed up on the mound and even threw some batting practice, during which opponents often let him strike them out with his feeble tosses to do their part as the straight men. His most famous victim was legendary shortstop Honus Wagner, who once stepped in and took three mighty and contact-less hacks during the pregame before heading to the dugout with his bat with the laughter of fans ringing in his ears.
Once a game started, Faust typically positioned himself beyond the outfield, warming up with his distinct windmill delivery, sometimes for innings on end, as if he believed he needed to be at a moment’s notice., He sometimes also sat on the bench, cheering on his teammates and predicting their base hits, with frequent accuracy, before they occurred.
He was a hit with the fans but met a good amount of acrimony with the media. Describing Faust after his first appearance with the team at the Polo Grounds, John Wheeler of the New York Herald wrote, “he runs like an ice wagon and slides as if he had stepped off a trolley car backward. He plays ball as if he were a mass of mucilage.”
The decided lack of athletic ability of Faust has been underscored on the historical record with a thick black pen. However, describing him as a big pile of snot revealed what would turn into an ongoing array of potshots members of the media would take at him during his stint in New York. The emphasis was always asserting his mental instability and making jokes at his expense. Journalism seemed to have no room for the possibilities of superstition.
Baseball was the national pastime and a serious business. There was nothing wrong with having fun, but Faust was so obviously out of his depths that it must have seemed like a mockery to those who did not find him to be their cup of tea.
As it turned out, Faust wasn’t the only good luck charm that the Giants employed that season. Dick Hennessy was a pre-teen bat boy, who was also something of a wizard with a glove. He had his own role in the “pre-game show,” often patrolling first base and fielding grounders and throws like a big leaguer. New York infielders would whip the ball at the youngster, sometimes creating gasps among the crowd. However, the more shocked reactions were reserved for his surprisingly adept glove work, as he caught just about everything thrown or hit his way.
Late August turned to September and the Giants remained on a tear, seemingly winning every game. With their hot streak coinciding with the arrival of their new good luck charm, Faust’s reputation began to grow. It was reported that he even received a “black hand” letter postmarked from Chicago and presumably a Cubs fan, threatening that something was going to happen to him if he “didn’t hurry back to Marion, Kansas.”
Faust continued to hector McGraw to get into game action, believing that his full purpose was not being fulfilled. While that did not seem to be in the cards, it became apparent that the dreamer was bringing value to the team with his presence, even if you didn’t buy into superstition. He was not only entertaining crowds before games, his emergence as the butt of various pranks and jokes helped provide a conduit that brought more laughter to the team and often helped subvert the intensity their manager often rained down upon them.
In addition to his dogged pursuit of his baseball dream, Faust had other interests that only contributed to his reputation. He was a pie fiend, especially of the apple variety. He had a piece with every meal and another before bed each night. In the midst of his 1911 run with the Giants he went missing for a couple of days because he was frustrated about not being used by McGraw and wanted to see if he could land a contract by presenting himself to the Dodgers in Brooklyn. They turned down his proposal, and as to not have wasted his journey across the bridge, he spent an additional day on the lam, sampling apple pies at various establishments to see if he could find the best offering in town.
Although he probably had never experienced either before coming to the Giants, it turned out he also loved manicures and massages. Christy Mathewson recalled “He would go into the barber shop with any member of the team who happened to be getting a shave and take a massage and manicure for the purposes of sociability as a man takes a drink.”
Serving as a professional butt of a joke, the experience of sharing a massage or manicure with his teammates, as they got shaves or similar treatments must have been downright blissful. It was one setting where the footing was much more equal, and he was able to operate more genuinely as a teammate and peer. Thus, it is with little surprise that he reportedly once got five manicures in one day, obviously willing to accompany any teammate who was going to the barber and needed (or was simply willing to accommodate) a companion.
The Giants’ dominance, along with some measure of Faust’s spectacle led to them being an extremely entertaining attraction to fans. On August 11th, the Giants lost to Phillies 2–0. Almost 23,000 fans were on hand to witness the contest. The New York Times reported, “Rube” Faust warmed up before game. Phillies let him bat when they were warming up. “He stole first, stole second, stole third, and scored while the Phillies were getting over a fit of laughter.”
Faust later said he was the only player who ever stole first base. He explained to his teammates that he accomplished this feat by taking advantage of the pitcher being distracted when he left the mound to get a drink of water over at his bench.
The press noted that New York seemed to have an odd attraction to the eccentrics. “The Giants seem to be pursued by person with strange notions: first it was “Bugs” Raymond and not it’s “Looney” Faust.” Raymond was an alcoholic pitcher, prone to outbursts and physical fights, including with manager McGraw. He was released shortly before the arrival of Faust in 1911 and sadly died on September 7th of that year after suffering a fractured skull from a fight in Chicago.
A week later, in front of 15,000 soggy fans in Cincinnati, it was rainy between games of a doubleheader that was swept by Giants. However, the main entertainment came from a pair that weren’t even on the payroll as players.
According to The New York Times, “Dick Hennessy and Rube Faust furnished so much fun between the two games that the crowd almost started a petition to have them perform instead of Cincinnati.”
The 10-year-old Hennessy grabbed Fred Merkle’s glove and manned first base while McGraw trotted out to play second. Larry McLean hit hard grounders at them, which they astonished the crowd with their ability, despite their age at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Faust assumed the role of a catcher and warmed up Rube Marquard. One pitch eluded him and struck him in the eye, much to the delight of fans who couldn’t differentiate between buffoonery and lack of ability. He went to the dugout but returned with a shiner to lay down a bunt and circle the bases, eliciting another roar from the crowd.
Still believing himself to be under legitimate contract with the Giants and the linchpin to their success, Faust continued to stump to be taken seriously, both with pay and playing time. On August 24th, it was reported that “Rube Faust had a long talk with President John T. Brush yesterday. There seems to be some slight difference of $10,000 in the terms of Rube’s Contract.” There are no known records if he received any pay beyond some expenses, which may have amounted to meals and perhaps lodging. He was certainly not making a player’s salary but wanted New York to hold up what he thought was their end of the deal. Easily dissuaded, he was put off again like in the past.
For most, the inability to get satisfaction on salary they believed was owed would be a significant distraction. However, Faust was able to shoulder on. Just two days later, on the 26th, Mathewson beat the Pirates 6–2 for his 21st victory on the season. The win also pushed the Giants’ record to an impressive 70–44. The Catholic Protectory boy’s brass band played ragtime music during game. One paper reported that Faust “showed more of his versatility by leading the bands. He did that just about as well as he plays ball.”
New York continued to win much more often than they lost, and Faust continued to pine away for playing time, but had to satisfy himself with whatever pre-game and in-game antics he was allowed to perform, as that was as close as he was going to get to game action.
On September 11th, the Giants were rained out in Boston against the last place Rustlers, who ultimately finished 54 games out of first place. In part because of the short distance, Faust had traveled to Boston on his own and joined up with the team. With no ball to play or crowd to warm up, he instead talked to the press about a new curveball he was hoping to debut against Boston the next day when the weather would hopefully cooperate.
The next week, specifically on the 16th, was a big week, not only for the team, but also for their good luck charm. The Giants beat the Pirates that day 6–2 behind Marquard for his own 21st win on the season. The real spectacle occurred before a single official pitch had been thrown, however. During warm ups, Faust was allowed to pitch to legendary Pittsburgh shortstop Honus Wagner and “struck out” the “Flying Dutchman” on three straight pitches. Faust walked to the bench amid a storm of applause.
The crowd barely had time to stop clapping before Dick Hennessy drew even more cheers by trotting out to first base and letting New York infielders take grounders and throw balls at him as hard as they could. The youth didn’t miss a single ball and looked like he belonged with his older and professional counterparts; a stark contrast to Faust.
As the regular season dwindled, the Giants were just biding their time as they geared up for a World Series and the extra pay that was guaranteed by making it to the final matchup. Although their resistance was futile, the Cubs stuck around long enough that the pennant wasn’t clinched until there were eight games remaining.
McGraw toyed with the idea of letting Faust pitch in a game because he was feeling so confident but found that he couldn’t bring himself to let that happen. If the skipper believed in superstition at all, he must have had some inkling of gratitude towards Faust, despite the massive irritation he had experienced. From the time he met the Kansan in St. Louis to the day the Giants clinched the pennant; his team had an astonishing record of 39–9–1. When Faust was in uniform and emanating whatever jinxing powers he may have possessed, their record was an even better 36–2.
New York’s run of success did not go unnoticed. Although likely joking, Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack publicly commented that Faust would bring the Giants enough luck to win the pennant. Of course, the talented roster and skilled manager they had on their side had something to do with it as well.
The Sporting News wrote “this peculiar character has worked wonders as a mascoter in McGraw’s camp. It is a strange superstition that has overcome the Giants, but they believe his presence spells luck… Giant athletes state that on the bench Faust calls the turn on nearly every man, predicting base hits or runs with rarely a miss. Upon looking back into the records again they find that he has been on the bench 26 days and in that time they have won 26 games… The Giants have taken his presence as a winning hunch, and even as business-like as John McGraw is, the Giant chief says he would rather lose any one man on the club.”
The team was in full cruise control mode. They were simply playing out the string in order to get to the World Series against legendary manager Connie Mack and his Philadelphia Athletics, who won 101 games of their own that season.
On October 7th, Marquard started the game against the Rustlers to get loose for his important role in the postseason. Less than 1,000 fans on hand, as it was cold and muddy, and as a meaningless game that was so perfunctory it could barely be considered more than a scrimmage. Only three regular Giants players played the entire game and one reporter wrote that “Manager McGraw went after the game with the same enthusiasm that a man might rush to seat himself in the electric chair. He simply didn’t care for it.”
So little did McGraw “care for it” that he had determined that Faust was finally going to get into game action. His aggravating accessory was beside himself with excitement upon learning the news. He spent the first eight innings of the game warming up, not knowing exactly when he might get the call.
The Giants were losing 4–2 going into the ninth inning when the moment finally came. Sprinting to the mound, Faust received a big cheer from the sparse crowd.
With his first pitch, Faust became the tenth and final pitcher to officially appear in a game for the Giants that season. The gravity of the situation quickly took over as light-hitting Boston catcher Bill Rariden greeted him with a long double. He was barely able to catch his breath before pitcher Lefty Tyler laid down a sacrifice and moved the runner over to third. Second baseman Bill Sweeney hit another long fly ball to the outfield. While it was caught it was plenty deep to score Rariden to put Boston up 5–2.
With the bases empty, outfielder Mike Donlin strode to the plate, laughing as hard as the crowd at Faust’s feeble pitches and the absurdity of it all. Once one of the most feared hitters in the game and a former member of the Giants, he was now 33 and a part-time player. However, he had already hit a home run earlier in the game and was still batting over .300 on the year. Any thoughts he had about padding his stats were dashed when he grounded out to end the inning and close out Faust’s debut, which ended with minimal damage.
In the bottom of the ninth, Faust had a chance to bat if New York was able to get someone on base. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, and the pitcher was left on deck when the last out was made. However, nobody likes a good joke to end, and Boston was no exception. Despite the dreary day and their moribund season, they remained in the field and let Faust bat. They played their part, allowing him to reach base on a weak grounder where the ball was “accidentally” thrown over the first baseman’s head. They then committed “errors” that allowed him to circle the bases, until he was tagged out coming in to home plate. It didn’t count for an official at-bat, but it culminated an immensely satisfying experience for the newly minted hurler.
The Giants traveled across the city and split two games with the Brooklyn Dodgers before returning to the Polo Grounds on October 12th to host the Bums for a doubleheader on the last day of the season. Faust still exuded excitement from his appearance on the mound. He was certain there was more to come.
Pat Ragan permitted just three singles to New York in a complete-game 3–0 victory in the first contest against Brooklyn. Faust was anticipating pitching again, as McGraw had likely informed him he could possibly be getting another chance. Like before, he readied himself to be available at a moment’s notice. It turned out that would be the ninth inning of the second game, with New York down 5–1.
One reporter noted, “Faust started to warm up for the critical test at noon, and by the time he was allowed to pitch he was somewhat tired but was able to throw the ball almost fast enough to break a pane of glass.”
The Sun was descriptive of the curiosity on the mound. “His posture just before his windup, followed by sweeping convulsion of his arms tearing the air into geometric tatters, so dismayed the Brooklyn batters that they failed to score in the inning in which they faced the sunflower phenom. Faust’s elbow ball, a forearm floater which came up so airily as a soap bubble, so deceived Daley of Brooklyn that that player fell flat when he missed it with a mighty lunge. The spectators were convulsed… Umpire Brennan was so agitated that he covered his face with his hand and his chest pad shook violently.”
Faust was able to get out of the inning allowing just one hit. Whether that was due to the effectiveness of his pitches or the inability of the batters to square up the ball between laughing fits remain a mystery. Nevertheless, the game headed to the bottom of the ninth inning and this time the pitcher’s spot in the batting order would come up.
Brooklyn’s pitcher was 23-year-old Eddie Dent. The right-hander had gone the distance but had scattered hits throughout the ballgame; fortunate to have permitted just one run up to that point. When Faust came up, he was hit by his counterpart on the wrist. He took his place at first base, but not before telling his teammate, third baseman Buck Herzog, who was on deck that “I am going to steal second and third and I want you to squeeze me home.”
It all played out exactly as he planned. He was able to steal both second and third base with no resistance, accounting for the team’s 346th and 347th stolen bases on the year — a record. Herzog then laid down a squeeze bunt that allowed Faust to come home and score his one and only big league run and draw his team a little bit closer at 5–2.
The Giants would get no closer and ended their regular season with a dominant 99–54 record. It had been known for over a week that the team was going to the World Series, but they were still excited after dropping both end of the doubleheader. Nobody was more ebullient than Faust, who kept chattering about his appearance and crossing home plate with an actual run. He asked anyone who happened to walk within earshot of him, “who’s loony now?”
It was time to match up against the Mack Men of Philadelphia, under the guidance of their manager Connie Mack and the good fortune of their mascot, Louis Van Zelt. The Athletics were no joke. They were 101–50 during the regular season, outpacing even the stellar record of the Giants.
It was hard to gauge any real weaknesses with Philadelphia. A young powerful offense was led by infielders Stuffy McGinnis, Eddie Collins and Frank Baker, who were all 25 or younger. Meanwhile, the pitching staff was the deepest in the league and headlined by Jack Coombs, Eddie Plank and Albert “Chief” Bender, who won 68 games between them.
The first game of the Series commenced on October 14th at the Polo Grounds in front of a massive crowd of more than 38,000 eager fans. Featuring a powerhouse matchup of Mathewson against Bender, the two hurlers didn’t disappoint, each pitching a complete game. An RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning by New York left fielder Josh Devore scored catcher Chief Meyers and was the deciding run in a 2–1 Giants victory.
Due to the gravity of the situation, there was no chance Faust would see the field in Game 1, let alone game action at any point in the Series. However, he was present, and while unsure as to how to activate his charms, he was hopeful whatever had gotten him and the team to this point would continue.
During the off day on the 15th, the Giants were honored guests at an admiration convention at a New York theater. Eschewing their uniforms, the team dressed in their best evening fashions for the event. With the exception of Rube Marquard, who was scheduled to pitch the next game the entire team donned tuxedos — even Faust. They were ceremoniously individually introduced to the crowd; the heroes of the metropolis. Recognized as their fearless leader, McGraw was presented with a gold watch and diamond-studded watch fob.
Even such pomp and circumstance couldn’t get the press off the back of Faust. The Times wrote, “For the first time in his life Charley Faust donned evening clothes and didn’t know just where to put his hands. He contributed his little piece, saying how sure he was that New York was going to best the Athletics. Almost everybody believed him.”
The two teams squared off again on October 16th; this time at Shibe Park. The cozier ballpark ensured that a much smaller crowd (26,286) was on hand to see Plank take on Marquard.
Knotted at one in the bottom of the sixth, Frank Baker plated the final runs of the game when he bashed a two-run home run deep to right. Plant needed nothing else, scattering five hits in a 3–1 victory.
At the time, newspapers often employed players to write a column, or have someone pen something under their name, during times such as the World Series. Mathewson had such a column during the 1911 World Series and following Game 2, it criticized Marquard for coughing up Baker’s blast.
Irony visited in Game 3. Mathewson was dominant, holding up a 1–0 lead into the ninth inning when Baker struck again, launching yet another home run deep to right. Although he had led the American League with 11 homers that year, it was unexpected to see a player go deep in consecutive games in an era when such hits were rare and against such exceptional pitching talent. His feat earned him the immortal nickname of Frank “Home Run” Baker and helped propel him into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Matty and Philadelphia’s Coombs each pitched complete games, and the contest was taken by Philadelphia in 11 innings, as three singles and two errors pushed across two runs. A New York rally was snuffed, and the result was a 3–2 victory by the Athletics.
Philadelphia took Game 4, but New York bounced back to claim Game 5 in a 4–3 10-inning squeaker. Game 6 quickly became anticlimactic, as Bender and 13 hits by his teammates proved to be no match for the Giants. In front of 20,000 fans, the Athletics claimed their World Series title with a resounding 13–2 victory.
For anyone who dared joke with Faust that he didn’t fulfill his prophecy, he was quick to retort that he had never guaranteed a World Series, only a pennant. Any suggestion that he hadn’t fulfilled the fortune teller’s prophecy was something he couldn’t tolerate.
It initially appeared that Faust would spend his winter in New York. Although the Giants had fallen short in the World Series, their full-time mascot and part-time pitcher was still a well-known commodity. Despite his failure earlier that summer on stage, he received another offer to perform on Vaudeville. With no baseball to play for a while it seemed like a good opportunity to pay the bills.
Clearly, he had not made any attempt to bone up on his performing skills. Appearing at Willie Hammerstein’s Victoria Theater, he gained the embarrassing distinction of being so horrible and booed so lustily that the act scheduled to come on stage after him refused to do so. A reviewer wrote in Variety that “Vaudeville must be desperate when it will attach an ‘act’ of this sort to itself; also, Vaudeville must be lifeless to endure it.” Given how the circuit relied upon the unusual and fleeting fame, such words were particularly brutal.
After Vaudeville spat him back out, Faust returned to his family home in Marion for the remainder of the winter.
Despite the team’s success in 1911, the Giants entered 1912 with no plans to bring Faust back for the new season. They had tolerated his theatrics and hectoring to appear in games, but it seemed like they were interested in a fresh start.
Given the place of importance Faust believed he held with the organization, he was under the impression he would be offered a contract for the next season to see if he could build upon his “promising” rookie campaign. Much to his surprise, as spring training neared, a contract never made its way into his mailbox. Taking matters into his own hands, he traveled to the Giants’ team office on January 30th and had long meeting with McGraw and Secretary O’Brien about his status with the team for the upcoming season. However, he left without a deal or any promise of having a place with New York. An article in a New York paper the next day detailed the summit with an article titled, “Mascot Faust Not Wanted.”
Faust was outraged on multiple levels. He told reporters, “If the Giants don’t want me, I know of clubs that do. Manager McGraw promised last season to use me as a regular pitcher, and I am somewhat perturbed to think that I did not get a chance to show my twirling ability.”
Perhaps as an added outrage, fellow pitcher Rube Marquard was signed to a three-year contract extension. The unfairness seemingly continued to stack up. Faust toyed with the idea of going to McGraw’s office once again to ask one more time for a contract.
He told reporters if he wasn’t signed, he planned to go to the upcoming National League meeting to “spring a sensation.”
Come February, professional players from around the country began stirring to dust off months of inactivity and to find jobs if not already attached to a team. With no contract in hand, Faust redoubled his efforts to gain the roster spot he believed he was owed.
The National League held their annual meeting at the Waldorf Hotel on February 13th. It was an opportunity to go over league affairs and to also hammer out a schedule for the upcoming season. This particular meeting was not without controversy, as Charles Murphy of the Chicago Cubs became upset after seeing that there were multiple conflicts of Sunday games in Chicago, with the White Sox getting a larger share of the coveted weekend home dates. Although he was ultimately placated, tensions were running a bit higher than usual.
Confusion and perhaps a touch of comedy hit the proceedings when Faust sprung his “sensation.” attempted to crash the meeting by entering the Sun Parlor where the National League was in session and demanded admittance to plead his case. He had come up with the idea to offer himself as a free agent through an auction to representatives of the teams that were present. The team with the foresight to improve their fortunes and the deepest pockets would come away with the prize — his services for the 1912 season. Unfortunately, his pounding on the door were unanswered he eventually went away, yet again stymied in his attempt to advance his baseball career.
On February 16th, Faust went once again to McGraw and demanded a contract. This also happened to be the day that the Giants were leaving via train to travel to the site of their training in Marlin, Texas. Utilizing a familiar strategy, the skipper referred him to National League President Thomas Lynch, whose office was in a different part of the city. Faust followed up on the lead to see Lynch only to find out he was out of town. By the time he was able to get back to the Giants’ office their train had already left the station for Texas.
He insisted he would follow the team to Marlin anyways and that even if Giants didn’t want him, he knew of plenty of other teams that would. No doubt, now feeling desperate, Faust made his next move. He joined the rank and file, traveling south and landing in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on his own dime. Somehow, he managed to link up with the Brooklyn Superbas, who were training in the area. The team had been mired in the second division for some time and were desperate to get more on par with their rivals, the Giants. If their successful mascot was no longer wanted, they figured they might as well see what he could muster for them.
The Superbas were led by skipper Bill Dahlen, who had enjoyed a lengthy career as a shortstop. He began managing the team in 1910, when his playing career was all but over. He appeared in just three games in 1910 and then one final game in 1911, which just so happened to be the final game of the season when Faust pitched his scoreless inning and scored a run.
Having won just 64 games in each of his first two seasons as manager, Dahlen obviously decided grasping at some straws couldn’t hurt. Now in his 40s and no longer able to play, it was in his best interest to show something that would permit him to keep his job.
Despite the altruism of Brooklyn, Faust’s heart was still clearly with the Giants. He claimed that he held the lofty goal that spring to learn how to pitch left-handed because he believed it would make him twice as valuable before to McGraw. For his part, Mugsy was surprised to hear that Faust was dead set on joining the team once again.
As he angled to secure an encore engagement with the Giants, Faust was able to scratch his baseball itch a bit more with the Superbas. On February 29, 1912, he was given the ball and the start in Hot Springs, going the distance and holding the opposition to a very respectable four runs. The glorified scrimmage only emboldened him further in the self-professed belief that he was a budding talent that was just waiting to be plucked by the team that had the common sense to do so.
Anxious over not having received a contract, Faust sent telegrams to McGraw almost daily to remind him that he was in great shape and ready to re-join the Giants. No doubt, he reminded him of the “two-year contract” he had signed on the shirt collar the previous year. Never one to be fully aware of his position, he also made sure to remind the skipper that he could just as easily offer his services to Brooklyn if the proper appreciation wasn’t shown.
As camps were nearing the time to break and head north, McGraw responded to one final message from Faust, telling him to take a train and join them in Marlin, Texas, where they had been doing their training. Keeping in line with tactics he had used in the past with the persistent pitcher, the date he told him to arrive was actually the day after the team was to depart for New York.
Either wise to the strategy, or by sheer luck, Faust ignored McGraw’s directive and instead traveled to New York. On April 10th, the Giants swept an exhibition doubleheader against Yale at the Polo Grounds. Faust appeared unexpectedly in the crowd and was permitted to make a speech between the games.
Later, he accosted team owner John Brush in his limousine leaving the park. Standing outside the idling vehicle, he once again reiterated his demands for a contract — attracting a small crowd, who witnessed the scene. By now likely aware that the man in front of him could be put off rather easily, Brush told him he would have to look over his records to see how much money he had left in the bank before he was able to finalize a deal.
Perhaps, somewhat admitting defeat with the situation, Faust had some of his previous privileges with the team restored. Having lost the World Series, McGraw was no longer quite as enamored by the potential charming ability of his good luck charm. Still, as a courtesy, he permitted him to join the team for some games on the bench, in street clothes. He was also under the direction to stay out of the way.
On April 19th, Christy Mathewson beat the Superbas 6–2 on at New York’s home opener. The crowd was smaller than usual for such a big day, in part because of blustery weather and the melancholy over the sinking of the majestic Titanic, which had occurred earlier that week.
Faust was reported to have attended the game in the grandstand and of being envious of the attention the players received as returning pennant winners. Holding the belief that he played a large role in the previous year’s success, it undoubtedly perturbed him to no end that he was not being held in the same esteem.
As if sitting in the stands wasn’t bad enough, insult was heaped on top of injury by one paper, which took note of his new seating arrangement and made a thinly veiled reference to the Kansan being nuts by writing that “Charley Faust has been released to the squirrels.”
Tragedy can put often halt reality, and this certainly occurred on April 22nd when the Giants beat the Yankees 11–1 on at the Polo Grounds in an exhibition game to benefit survivors of the Titanic. It was no holds barred, as Faust was allowed on the field to do his typical performance during the game. The future “Yankee Doddle Dandy” stage performer George M. Cohan did an impression of a newsboy selling papers and young girls called the “female Giants” circulated through the crowd to collect donations. An impressive total of $9425.25 was taken in, making the event a smashing success.
As the season progressed, the stipulations for Faust to remain connected with the team grew more defined. The team no longer paid for his expenses on road trips, but he was still allowed to do his typical warming up and pantomiming on the field.
By early July, the Giants had clearly picked right up where they left off at the end of the 1911 regular season. Even with a 1–4 start, they boasted a record of 54–11, primarily on the strength of an excellent pitching staff and a dominant offense, which went on to score the most runs (823) by a team since 1899.
In the midst of all the winning, and not recognizing or caring of how he was coming across, Faust continued to push for playing time in the same manner he had the year before. The big difference this time around was that McGraw was determined he would never see the field again during an official game. The skipper had seen enough to come to believe that the man was likely suffering some sort of mental instability and was someone to be wary of instead of treating him as a laughable rube.
It was all a delicate matter. The Giants weren’t just winning; they were steamrolling their opponents. Because of the press he received, there was still a significant perception that Faust was a part of that. How to navigate the entanglement in the most sensitive way possible?
He tried to order Faust to leave for a sabbatical but was unsuccessful in the endeavor. Finally, some of his players convinced Faust to return home to Kansas in June. The ploy was that he wasn’t being properly appreciated and by taking a break, it would soon become clear how much he was needed and would be summoned back to great fanfare.
Much to the players’ chagrin, their prediction came true. As soon as Faust left, the team’s fortunes turned, as they lost three out of four against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Most notably impacted was Rube Marquard, who boasted a record of 33–2 when Faust was in the stadium. He started the 1912 season on a particular roll, winning his first nineteen decisions. However, the week after Faust went home, he lost three games, and finished with a 7–11 record during the remainder of the season.
Faust returned to Giants bench to see team beat Phillies 4–3 on June 27th. The win put them in first place by 12.5 games, which was a commanding lead that early in the year.
Once again poking fun at possible mental illness, one paper said when asked where he had been. “Charley said he had been visiting the Hazel family over in Nutley, New Jersey. They are friends of his and come from Kansas, too.”
The time away from the team seems to have embittered Faust. Perhaps he was no longer content with the scraps he had fought so hard to maintain. He traveled to Cincinnati to appeal to the National Baseball Commission that he was owed a year’s salary by the Giants. In his mind, he had spent a good portion of the previous season with the team as part of their roster and received nothing besides meal and travel money. The press indicated that any action on his behalf was extremely unlikely, as he was never classed as a ball player. The hard truth was that he was a side show; a novelty; a jinx breaker. It was not at all what he believed or had seen as his destiny.
Bu mid-July, he was back with Giants. However, McGraw was increasingly seeing Faust as more potentially dangerous than annoyance and refused to let him have a uniform. He was still at the park every day practicing with the players, but a clear boundary had been set that had not existed before.
Faust continued to reach out to National Chairman August Herrmann to plead for a year’s salary but was told that by the executive that he had “nothing whatever to do with his case.” The response was an effective statement that Faust was not considered a ballplayer and thus could not appeal to the rules and laws of the game to address his grievances. It was a complete and total invalidation of the identity he had built for himself over the past year.
If Faust was indeed but a mascot, he was hardly alone. The Saturday Evening Post wrote on August fifth, “Speaking of Charley Faust, naturally brings us round to the subject of mascoting, which is another latter-day by-product of the game. Every professional team in the country now has its official mascot, who may be a fat boy or a dwarf or a giant, or some other refugee from the dime museum; or, on the other hand, he may be merely a small boy with an abnormal knowledge of the game and a genius for toting bats without spilling them.” Nevertheless, if he read such takes, it must have been a stinging blow to his pride.
Faust eventually made his way back to the team, although most certainly not by invitation. Predictably, the team regained their footing and finished with an amazing 103 victories; a full 10 games ahead of the runner up Pittsburgh Pirates.
In a magnanimous gesture, the team permitted Faust to suit up in a uniform for the team picture, which occurred after they clinched the pennant in September. Although accounts are scarce, it seems likely that he was slipping deeper into his delusions, as he didn’t bother to stick around for the World Series. Instead, convinced that his imaginary wife-to-be, Lulu, wanted him home, he headed back to Kansas.
The Giants may have been a powerhouse, but the Boston Red Sox, who they matched up with in the World Series, had something to say about that. Authors of 105 wins themselves, they dispatched the Giants four games to three (with a Game 2 tie thrown in). However, the Series may not have been as close as the final line appears, as speculation has popped up over the years suggesting that players adjusted their play in order to lengthen the Series and pad the amount of shares they would claim at its conclusion.
In 1913, Faust was even more on the outs with the Giants then before. Although he made some appearances at the park, he clearly not a welcome figure with the team. He continued to appeal to the Giants and the National League to be paid back salary he believed he was owed, meeting a brick wall any time he brought the subject up, no matter who it was.
Faust finally got the message that his major league career was over. He moved to California, where he worked intermittently doing odd jobs. He then moved on to Seattle, where he moved in with his brother John — still holding out hope that he would be recalled to New York and rejoin the team that had given him so much happiness.
In 1914, still intent on rejoining the Giants, he began a serious decline in his mental health. In July, believing that his Giants were in trouble because of the Boston Braves, who wound up winning the pennant after a 10–24 start to the season, he decided to rejoin his beloved team. However, instead of heading to New York, he walked from Seattle to Portland, arriving in a daze, where police found him wandering aimlessly on the streets. He was committed to a mental hospital. Later that year, after a hearing on his mental status, he was transferred to another facility in Salem, where he listed his occupation as “professional ballplayer” on the admission form.
After seven weeks of treatment and observation, he was diagnosed as suffering from “dementia,” and was noted has having “not improved.” Nevertheless, he released into his brother’s custody. They returned to Seattle, but by December his condition had proven too difficult for his family to manage and he was sent to the Western State Hospital in Fort Steilacoom where he spent the remainder of his life.
On June 18, 1915, he died of tuberculosis. He was just 34 years of age. It’s unknown how long he had the disease, but in an age where health care in institutions were not of the highest standard, he rapidly went downhill. His family did not claim his body for burial.
Faust, like hundreds of other patients who died in that era and were not claimed by their families, was buried across the road from the hospital, with only a cement number marking his final resting spot. Up until 2004, a state law required the anonymity of everyone buried on the site, but the measure was overturned after it was appealed by those who sought to return dignity to the mentally ill, who had perished in such sad anonymity.
Cast to the side for most of his life, Faust found his calling after a fortune teller gave him a wildly imaginative take on his destiny. Instead of laughing it off as a lark, he used it to motivate and will himself into making it a reality. Fighting mental illness and the scorn and laughter of others, he did what few so us can actually accomplish — which is actualizing lofty goals. The rube from Kansas did what he said he would do, and although the trajectory of his star was short, it burned brightly for as long as it streaked through the sky.