Appleton has a long and fascinating connection to the national pastime and among the names, numbers and countless memories stands a statistical record that’ll forever be linked with our city.
Long-time resident George “Stormy” Hogriever ended his long baseball career here as a member of the minor-league Papermakers. And it’s here that he recorded the final of his all-time-high 948 minor league stolen bases.
It’s a record that’s stood intact since Stormy’s final steal — and that dates back to 1912.
We made it through opening weekend for professional baseball, and with a pandemic delaying its arrival by more than three months, many of us have gained a new appreciation for how much the game’s tradition and consistency adds to our lives.
It means summer. It carries a connection between generations. And in many ways, it speaks to home.
Here in Appleton, we’re fortunate to have a connection to the game that’s deeper than that of so many cities of our size.
Our lore goes well beyond a century. Hogriever is among our founding fathers.
We’ve watched young men arrive here to develop along their paths to fame. We’ve watched with pride as local boys — inspired by those minor league visitors — climbed their own ladders.
Hogriever was among those who arrived here with hopes of something more and he briefly achieved it. The Cincinnati native had two major league stints tucked within his 23 years of pro ball.
He made his big league debut in his hometown, playing for the 1895 Cincinnati Reds. Hogriever returned to the big leagues in the very first year of the American League. He played for the first iteration of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901. The team would move to St. Louis in 1902 and remains in the league today as the Baltimore Orioles.
But it was the minors where Hogriever left his mark, and eventually found his home — right here in Appleton.
When we think of baseball and the Fox Valley, there are so many names that come to mind.
There’s Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Goose Gossage, Harold Baines, Ron Kittle and Tom “Flash” Gordon.
Among the hometown boys, there’s Danny Jansen who debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018.
We think of Appleton’s Matt Erickson, who made four appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers before returning home to serve as the long-time manager of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Menasha’s Eric Hinske was an American League rookie of the year and a world champion over a 12-year major league career.
Among an older generation of players, we count Menasha’s Dave Koslo who gave up Jackie Robinson’s first major league home run. On a brighter note, he was the winning pitcher in game one of the 1951 World Series.
As another yard-marker as to how deep our history with baseball runs, consider: Hogriever was out of the game for nearly 30 years when a young Koslo first suited up for the New York Giants.
His travels speak to a game at its infancy and an American fascination with baseball that was only beginning to blossom.
It carries some interesting trivia.
Though Hogriever’s big league debut as a player wasn’t achieved until 1895, he served as an umpire in three major league games in 1893.
His professional career began closer to home in 1888 in Hamilton, Ohio.
Hogriever became a part of Appleton by the two means one might expect: minor league baseball and love.
Hogriever’s first stint in Appleton came in 1891 after he was cut from the Kansas City squad.
Here, he met Wilhelmina “Minnie” Myse and they married in 1894.
The game took him from team to team across the country, though he was perhaps best known in Indianapolis where he was a 10-year fixture in the outfield. As his career dwindled, the family came back to Appleton to make their home.
He was always known as an aggressive base runner and age didn’t slow Hogriever on the base pads.
In 1911, at age 42, Hogriever swiped 30 bases in 118 games in Appleton.
Hogriever helped the Appleton Papermakers to the Wisconsin-Illinois League pennant in 1910. He was the playing manager of the Papermakers in 1911 and 1912. He broke his left shoulder on a diving catch against Oshkosh on July 5, 1912 and retired in the offseason at 43.
When baseball ended, the remainder of his Appleton story began.
Hogriever went on to serve as steward of Appleton’s Elks Club for 40 years. He died here in 1961 and was laid to rest at Riverside Cemetery.
His baseball accomplishments are both under-appreciated and mind-boggling.
If his base thefts happened in the majors, only Rickey Henderson would top his numbers. And among minor league players, the game has changed too much to think anyone could even come close to his feat.
He achieved the astronomical steals figure through consistency and longevity. Today, you’d never see another player with more than 20 years of minor league service.
It’s a game that tells its story through numbers. But it’s one that adds much to the stories of those communities fortunate enough to play host.
Hogriever’s career serves to illustrate the important link.
Baseball is part of Appleton as much as Appleton has been part of baseball.