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Beaumont gives Beloit College historic ties to MLB

Although baseball has been arguably its strongest athletic program in recent years, Beloit College is not necessarily known for its association with America’s pastime. However, the small liberal arts school actually possesses a decorated baseball history that dates back over a century, highlighted by a former Beloit outfielder who cracked the Majors in the early 1900s and made waves during his career.

Clarence Howeth Beaumont is a baseball legend that even some of the game’s most die-hard fans are unfamiliar with. The future big leaguer was born in the small town of Rochester, Wis., located in southeastern Wisconsin in Racine County. Beaumont was a right-handed thrower who batted from the left side– considered by many to be the best throwing-batting combination– and started his baseball career in 1896 as a catcher. He played for semi-professional teams from Rochester, East Troy, Waupun, Burlington and eventually Beloit College (all communities in Wisconsin). 

Beaumont signed his first professional contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, who at the time were a member of the now-dissolved Western League (they would eventually move to Baltimore and become the modern-day Orioles), late in the 1898 season. Future Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack was managing Milwaukee at the time, and, since he needed an outfielder, converted Beaumont from a catcher to an outfielder. Beaumont shined in his first action with the Brewers, hitting .354 with 11 stolen bases over 24 games.

Although it was a brief sample size, that performance garnered Beaumont interest from National League clubs such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Mack ended up sending Beaumont to the Pirates, though an account of the trade states that Milwaukee fans were not pleased, as they believed Beaumont was a “brilliant and promising young player” and they “bid farewell to Beaumont with profound regret.”

And it seems Milwaukee fans were right. Given a chance to play with a National League team in the Pirates, Beaumont– who Pittsburgh fans affectionately referred to as “Ginger” because of his thick red hair– went on to become one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters over the next decade. In 1899, his rookie season, he hit a sterling .352 while flashing elite speed with 31 stolen bases. He became the first player in history to score six runs in a game during his rookie season; he also reached via six infield singles in that game. Beaumont “slumped” a bit in 1900, as his average fell to .279, though he still swiped 27 bags. He rebounded in 1901 to hit .332 and steal 36 bases, a career-high. Beaumont also set a career-high with eight home runs in 1901.

However, arguably the best season of Beaumont’s career came in 1902, when he led the National League in hits (193) and hit .357– a career-high– good enough to take home the National League batting title. He then set his career-high in hits (209) in 1903 while batting .341. After the 1906 season, Pittsburgh traded Beaumont to the Boston Doves, whom he played with from 1907 to 1909; he finished his playing days with the Cubs in 1910 and retired to his farm with his family in Honey Creek, Wis., not far from Rochester. He lived comfortably into his 70s before suffering from two strokes and passing at 79.

Though Beaumont started to fade late in his career due to recurring knee issues, the accolades he garnered are not to be ignored. He is probably most well known today as the first batter in World Series history, as he batted leadoff in the inaugural World Series between the Pirates and Boston Americans in 1903. Beaumont also made three pinch-hit appearances for the Cubs in the 1910 World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics.

Beaumont finished his career with a .311 average, 39 home runs, 617 RBIs and 254 stolen bases.

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