Elmer Flick Was a Local Cleveland Baseball Legend

Ralph DiMatteo

Elmer Flick Cleveland Baseball

When you think of Cleveland baseball greats, many different names come to mind: Lajoie, Boudreau, Feller, Speaker, Thome, Perry, Doby, McDowell and Kluber immediately come to mind for most hardcore Cleveland baseball fans for sure.

As impressive as the above list is, one name that wasn’t mentioned, and hardly ever comes up right away when discussing Cleveland’s all-time best, is one Elmer Harrison Flick. So let's get to know this local Cleveland baseball legend a bit better together.

Flick was born on January 11th, 1876 on his family’s farm right here in Bedford. He began his 13-year professional career as a steady, reliable right fielder with the Philadelphia Phillies, returning home to the Cleveland area to play for the Cleveland Naps, who later of course became the Indians, in 1902. He remained in the Cleveland organization until a stomach ailment forced him to retire in 1910 - his last appearance in a game was on America’s birthday, July 4th, 1910. The  irony to how his career ended was it was eerily similar to how it started, because it was a career-ending injury to a Phillies starting outfielder that gave Flick the chance to begin his career.

As a boy growing up and attending Bedford High School, Flick was an all-around athlete playing not just catcher for the baseball team, but he also played football, boxed and wrestled as well.

As with many things in life, it truly is sometimes just being in the right place at the right time, and that’s exactly how Flick’s career path toward professional baseball began.

Bedford had a semi-professional team that was headed out of town to play a doubleheader. Flick was 15 years old at the time and was at the train station to wish the team well as their trip began. However, only eight players showed up for the trip, so you can pretty much guess what happened next. Flick, without any gear of his own, was recruited to be the team's ninth - and much-needed - player to participate. Even though the Bedford team went down in defeat in both games, Flick hit well, and then joined the team on a regular basis, his semi-pro career lasting through his teenage years.

Flick’s minor-league start began just southeast of Cleveland with the Youngstown Puddlers. Having an established catcher on the team already, Flick was put into the outfield to get playing time, and things did not go smoothly at first. Despite the struggles of learning the new position, it did not affect his hitting, and while playing for the minor-league Dayton Old Soldiers, he caught the attention of Philadelphia Phillies manager George Stallings. Flick was signed as a backup outfielder in 1898, which led to above-mentioned opportunity to move into the everyday lineup when Sam Thompson suffered his career-ending back injury.

Flick had very impressive career statistics, but did it quietly, so much of his career went relatively unnoticed except by his peers. He is part of Cleveland baseball’s Hall of Fame and was also recognized by the Veterans Committee (now known as the Era Committees), as he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1963. It was an honor he lived to see as he passed away in his hometown of Bedford in 1971 at age 94.

Flick ended his 13-year career with a .313/.389/.445 line with 1,752 hits, 48 home runs, 756 RBI, 330 stolen bases, and a 148 OPS+ (a relatively new statistic that essentially means Flick was 48 percent better than the average major-leaguer).

We always try to leave you with an interesting tidbit to wrap things up, and we think you will find this pretty interesting about Flick.

The year was 1908 and the Detroit Tigers (we can only assume) had had enough of Ty Cobb’s constant distractions on and off the field. Despite Cobb being named one of baseball’s all-time greats in most discussions, the Tigers proposed a trade in 1908: Flick for Cobb. The Naps quickly passed on the deal. The story goes that it wasn’t that they didn’t want to take on Cobb’s antics, it was thought the Naps simply thought they already had the better player of the two. After you do your own further research, we will leave that to you to decide.

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