Vols’ 1915 Acquisition, Pitcher Rube Kis(s)inger

One “s” is Enough

Charles Samuel “Rube” Kisinger spent 16 seasons tossing a baseball for a living, and his last name was often spelled “Kissinger”, as it was in early newspaper reports. But one “S” is correct*. He was born in Adrian, Michigan on December 13, 1876.

The 6′, 190-lb. righthander joined his first professional team in 1901 in nearby Toledo, Ohio, only 38 miles from his hometown. He pitched and lost one game for the Mud Hens before being called up to Detroit in 1902 where he appeared in five games late in the season, winning two and losing three.

He returned to Detroit for the 1903 season, starting and losing against the Chicago White Sox on May 5 by a score of 8-1, and was sent to Toronto where he went 11-7 for the Maple Leafs before rejoining the Tigers in July. He ended the season 7-9, never returning to the majors but toiling in the minor leagues for another 13 years.

His greatest success was in Buffalo (Eastern League, Class A) in 1904. He earned a 116-81 record in six seasons with the Bisons before being released to Jersey City (Eastern League) in June of 1910. Between 1911 and 1916 he was with Jersey City and four Southern Association (Class A) clubs: Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Nashville (Southern Association, Class A).

In two years in Memphis, he was 14-17 and 13-14, before joining New Orleans for the 1915 season.

Sold to Nashville

In a curious trade, Rube was sold to Chattanooga on May 23 in a deal brokered by Pelican’s manager Johnny Dobbs and Lookouts manager Moose McCormick[1], but Lookouts owner Ross O. B. Andrews had it out for New Orleans and nullified the deal.[2] On May 28, Nashville manager Bill Schwartz and Dobbs announced Kisinger would join the Vols starting rotation.[3]

Bob Pogue of the Nashville Banner included another appeal of the red-headed spit-baller.

“The Rube is expected to join the locals immediately and will likely be in a Vol uniform to-morrow. The Rube is the Apollo of the Southern League and is a great favorite with the feminine fans.”[4]

Kisinger was to have pitched in the second game of a doubleheader on May 30 but was rained out. The Vols offense produced 18 hits and he scattered eight hits by the Atlanta Crackers, winning his first game for the Vols, 12-2. Rube attempted to twice sacrifice base runners, one resulted in a strikeout but the other in the fifth inning was successful. He added a single in the sixth.

Sportswriter Blinkey Horn took to his best writing skills in describing the Kisinger’s successful inaugural game at Sulphur Dell.

“While the Vols were shelling Mr. (James) Allen (a native of Clarksville, Tennessee) and moving up trench after trench, Chas. ‘Reuben’ Kissinger, finding the wind in his favor, took the bunghole out of a barrel of sleeping gas and snuffed the Crackers out with eight bingles.”[5]

He won his second game in the nightcap of a doubleheader on June 5 against Birmingham at Sulphur Dell, a 9-5 victory that was marred by seven errors, five by the Vols. Kisinger struck out three and helped his cause with a single and double.[6]

His third and fourth wins came on June 8 against Mobile and Chattanooga on June 13. On June 17 at Sulphur Dell, Kisinger held Memphis in check for his fifth consecutive win as Nashville beats the Chicks 4-2. Chicago Whales (Federal League) Secretary Charley Williams is on hand to scout the 39-year-old.

Rube suffered his first loss on June 21 in the first game of a doubleheader, 6-5, to Little Rock, but he came back strong on June 26 with a three-hit shutout in Memphis against the Chicks. He made it 21 consecutive shutout innings on June 30 in Little Rock when he limited the Travelers to two hits.

Scoreless Innings Streak

At home after a long road swing, Kisinger held the Chattanooga Lookouts to six hits and extended his scoreless inning streak to 28 in Nashville’s 5-1 win. His ninth win against one loss took place on July 8, 2-0, holding New Orleans to seven hits. The triumph allowed the Vols to pull within one-half game of the Pelicans for second place in a tight pennant chase.[7]

In Mobile four days later, on July 12 Kisinger took the loss in a 3-2 loss to the Bears. He was spiked on the foot by Vols third baseman in the fourth inning as they were both attempting to field a ball. Kisinger left the game for a short time before returning to the mound.[8]

With only two hits against Birmingham on July 16, he took another tick in the loss column, 3-1. His undoing came in the fifth inning, as the Barons touched him for three hits and a double steal, resulting in all three runs.[9]

Fred (also called “Rube”) Kroh (8-8), Kisinger (9-2), Jack Frost (7-2), Heinie Berger (10-10), and Tom Rogers (7-8) to lead the mound corps.[10] First baseman Gene Paulette was Nashville’s best hitter (.306).

Kisinger takes another loss, this time in Atlanta, as the Vols can gain only one hit on Crackers’ pitcher Tommy Thompson in a 1-0 loss in the first game of a scheduled seven-inning doubleheader. Nashville’s star only allows five hits in the affair.

It was beginning to appear the wheels were close to falling off, as Kisinger is wild on July 24 against Birmingham at Sulphur Dell and in 7 1/3 innings gives up seven runs on nine hits, walking six. He was replaced by Tom Rogers, who finished the game.[11]

On July 30 against New Orleans, he returned to his mid-season form in winning in Nashville, 4- 2. According to Blinkey Horn, Kisinger’s performance was “brilliant”.

“Reuben Kissinger got to the fifth frame without a sign of a hit and was in a fair way to hurl a perfect game, only fifteen Pels having journeyed to the platter in the first five stanzas.”[12]

With a 10-4 record, Rube started the second game of a doubleheader against Atlanta in Nashville, a scheduled seven-inning affair. He gave up six runs to the Crackers, but the Vols prevail, 4-3, and his reputation as a good hitter came through.

“The Rube crossed the Crackers up in the second, when, with two gone and (Johnny) Dodge on second, Kissinger lammed the ball to the Jack Daniel sign in left field for two bags. “Here comes a good hitter,” said Otto Williams, derisively, as the Rube sallied forth, Williams’ kidding ceased when Kissinger caught one on the nose.”[13]

Nashville was desperate to move up in the standings, but on August 7 were still mired in fourth place, seven games behind the Pelicans. That afternoon, Kisinger held the Mobile Bears to seven hits in a 6-1 win, and after poking a single in the seventh, stole second base.

Recalled to New Orleans

In a surprise move on August 11, New Orleans reclaimed Kisinger based on the sale agreement made by Vols manager Schwartz in May. Club president Clyde Shropshire made no bones about the terms of the pact to Blinkey Horn.

“The New Orleans club has not given me official notice of an intention of exercising its option on Rube Kissinger, but, of course, we took him on that agreement. That is, that he could be recalled upon the payment of the same sum which we paid New Orleans, and not use him until next season. There is no chance of Kissinger going back to the New Orleans club from Nashville until the present season close.”[14]

After a tough 1-0 loss in Chattanooga on August 13 when his teammates mustered only four hits while Kisinger gave up only three, he outperformed Mobile on August 19 by giving up six hits as the Vols won, 4-1. Rube Kroh shuts out the Pelicans in New Orleans in the first game of a doubleheader on August 22, but Kisinger is roughed up with nine hits in the nightcap to lose, 5-4. It is the first defeat of the season he suffers to the Pelicans.[15]

The loss leaves the Vols a full eight games behind New Orleans.

Kisinger lasted only into the fourth inning before being relieved by Berger on August 27 in Atlanta, a Crackers win, 9-2, but Nashville found its offense against Birmingham on August 31 in an 11-5 victory for the spit-baller. At home in the friendly confines of Sulphur Dell on September 4, Howard Baker socked a double to drive in a game-winning run over Memphis, 3-2, giving Kisinger the win.

In Little Rock on September 9, he did not last a full inning, replaced by Berger with two outs as the Travelers beat the Vols, 4-2. The second game ended in a tie, 2-2.

On September 17, Mobile scored three runs in the third inning on Kisinger, but he tightened up and allowed only five more for the rest of the game and Nashville won, 8-3. Losing to Birmingham on September 22 mired Nashville below .500 as they were tied with Chattanooga for fourth place.

Final Game and Home

He played his final game as Vols on September 24, facing pennant-winning New Orleans in Nashville and losing, 5-4. Kisinger finished the season with a 14-11 season.

Bob Pique wrote about Rube’s fast get-away in the evening Banner the next day.

“Rube Kissinger, the chicken fancier and fancied, is no longer a Vol, and boarded a train last night for his home near Cedar Point, O. The Rube has been looking forward to the time when he could shake the dust of Opportunity City from his gunboats. There were many reasons why the Rube wanted to go, mainly because he didn’t make himself as popular with the members of the local team as he might of done.”[16]

In 1916 he rejoined New Orleans. After suffering from rheumatism in his arm he was released twice by the Pelicans (once in May, and again 30 days later), and Kisinger returned to his family’s chicken farm in Michigan.

Tragically, Kisinger was killed on July 17, 1941, in a railroad accident when serving as a bridge foreman for the New York Central in Huron, Ohio.

In 17 major and minor league seasons, his career won-lost record stood at 185-156. Revered for his successful stint in Buffalo, Nashville fans caught a glimpse of Kisinger’s accomplishments in the season of 1915.

*According to the signature on his draft registration dated, September 12, 1918.





LA84 Foundation Digital Library Collections (The Sporting News Player Contract Cards)

Nashville Banner

Nashville Tennessean





[1] “Kissinger to Lookouts,” Nashville Tennessean, May 24, 1915, 9.

[2] Blinkey Horn, “Rube Kissinger Latest Addition to Vols Pitchers,” Nashville Tennessean, May 29, 1915, 10.

[3] “Kissinger Comes to Vols,” Nashville Banner, May 29, 1915, 7.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Horn, “Vols Explode Eighteen Hits Under Southpaw Allen,” Nashville Tennessean, June 3, 1915, 12.

[6] “Double Bill is Split by Barons and Volunteers,” Birmingham News, June 6, 1915, 6.

[7] Bob Pigue, “News and Views of Sport World,” Nashville Banner, July 9, 1915, 8.

[8] “Vols Hit Hard Enough, But Few are of Pinch Variety,” Nashville Tennessean, July 13, 1915, 10.

[9] “Robertson Wins His Own Game from Kissinger with Single,” Nashville Tennessean, July 17, 1915, 8.

[10] “Paulette Fifth Batter, But Leads in Base Hits Made,” Nashville Tennessean, July 18, 1915, 27.

[11] Horn, “Kissinger’s Wildness Robs Vols of Chance to Wins, Nashville Tennessean, July 25, 1915, 11.

[12] Horn, “Kissinger’s Brilliant Box Work Gives Vols Another Win,” Nashville Tennessean, July 31, 1915, 8.

[13] Pigue, Nashville Banner, August 4, 1915, 7.

[14] Horn, “Sporting Views,” Nashville Tennessean, August 12, 1915, 10.

[15] “Kroh toys with Pels, But Rube Kissinger Falters in Second,” Nashville Tennessean, August 23, 1915, 8.

{16] Pigue, ”Ringside, Diamond and Sideline Reflections,” Nashville Banner, September 25, 1917, 7.

© 2021 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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