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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

LOFTUS, Thomas E.

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LOFTUS, Thomas E. (St. Louis, MO, Nov. 15,1856--Dubuque, IA, Apr. 16, 1910). Loftus' BASEBALL career began in 1877 with the St. Louis Brown Stockings of the National League, but he only played in nine career games in 1877 and 1883 as an outfielder. (1)

Loftus came to Dubuque in 1879 as captain, manager, and second baseman of Dubuque's baseball team, the Dubuque Red Stockings. With such players as Charles Albert COMISKEY and Charles Gardner RADBOURNE, Loftus' team won the championship of the Northwest League that included Rockford, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa; and St. Paul, Minnesota. They defeated the then World Champion, Chicago National League team, by a score of 1-0. (2)

Loftus moved to St. Louis as captain in 1882, but poor health caused him to return to Dubuque, a situation that allowed Comiskey to demonstrate the abilities that made him a baseball legend. Having regained his health by 1884, Loftus returned to active play and worked with teams in Cincinnati and Cleveland. In 1890 he was the owner and manager of the Washington Senators. (3) In 1894 he helped organize the Western League that eventually became the American League.

As a baseball player, Loftus was the first to promote teamwork instead of single player technique. Because he was not a hard hitter, Loftus developed techniques now recognized as fundamentals. In addition to mastering the placement of hits, Loftus was the first to develop the bunt. He also held the record for stolen bases.

On July 20-22, 1898 Dubuque had a chance to see AA baseball. Having financial trouble with his Western League team in Columbus, Ohio, Loftus arranged a three-game appearance against the St. Paul baseball team in Dubuque. Loftus was said to be willing to transfer his club to Dubuque, but the number of cash customers while good in Dubuque, was not enough to pay the expenses of a AA team. (4)

In 1879 during the off-season, Loftus opened a pool and billiard room on Main Street. (5) In 1883 he was persuaded to operate the LORIMIER HOUSE buffet with William Flynn as a partner. In 1892 Loftus left the Lorimier House to work in the Julien Hotel (now the HOTEL JULIEN DUBUQUE). He later operated the buffet at the newly opened BANK AND INSURANCE BUILDING.

Given the opportunity to decorate the buffet as he saw appropriate, Loftus installed a marble bar, onyx columns, and expensive paintings and pictures of baseball players.

Passage of the mulct law, banning buffets in basements, forced the closing of the buffet at the Bank and Insurance Building in 1908. Loftus, then the leader of the Three-I League in baseball, waited one year and then purchased the restaurant business of Walter Dick and renamed the establishment, "The Stag." This he operated until his death.

Loftus' management in the big-leagues of baseball included the Milwakee Grays (Union League, 1884), Cleveland Spiders (1888-1889), and Cincinnati Reds (1890-1891). In 1900 he managed the Chicago Orphans (1900-1901). (6) His contract, however, was considered unusual. According to its details, Loftus was able to return to Dubuque every other two week period to take care of his business interests that he did not want to sell in order to manage the Chicago Cubs. (7)

Loftus will be remembered for helping develop National Baseball Hall of Fame members Charles Radbourn, Charles Comiskey, and Rube Wadell as well as Tom "Sleeper" Sullivan, Joe Quinn and Billy Sullivan, all notable players. (8) His critical role in founding the American League, however, was overshadowed by several factors. Loftus retired in 1904 and died in 1910 before the sport became really popular. John T. PREGLER, local baseball historian and author of "Tom Loftus: The American League's Forgotten Founding Father" for the prestigious Society for American Baseball Research's 2020 Baseball Research Journal, also stated Dubuque did not benefit from being a major East Coast media market." (9)



1. Wikipedia

2. "Comiskey, Loftus and Kehoe Began Careers in Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, Sept. 19, 1937, p. 16

3. Ibid.

4. Bohler, Peter. "Dubuque Baseball History," Telegraph Herald, Jan. 21, 1945, p. 16

5. "Loftus Back From East," Dubuque Daily Herald, Dec. 20, 1899, p. 3

6. Cooper, Brian, "Dubuque Baseball Team Hosted Chicago Squad in 1879," Telegraph Herald, August 6, 2022, p. 5A

7. "Tom Loftus' Contract," Dubuque Daily Herald, Dec. 5, 1899, p. 6

8. "Comiskey, Loftus...", p. 16

9. Leitner, Jim, "Loftus' Place in Baseball History Recognized," Telegraph Herald, July 1, 2020, p. 1B