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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.

RADBOURNE, Charles Gardner

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Charles Radbourne

RADBOURNE, Charles Gardner. (Rochester, NY, Dec. 11, 1854--Bloomington, IL, Feb. 5, 1897). Baseball Hall of Fame member. On April 1, 1879, Ted Sullivan, one of the game’s foremost organizers, formed and ran the Northwest League which consisted of three clubs from Illinois, Davenport, Omaha and Rockford, and Dubuque, Iowa. It was the first so called minor league formed outside the east coast. Sullivan took steps to set a salary structure for the Northwest League and clearly subordinated the league to the National League, which to some establishes it as the first legitimate minor league. Sullivan ran the Dubuque team which was financed by Iowa’s U.S. Senator William Boyd ALLISON and future congressman and Speaker of the House David B. HENDERSON. (1)

Charles Radbourne, called the "greatest of all nineteenth century pitchers," joined the Dubuque Rabbits BASEBALL team for the 1879 season. He earned $75 per month, twenty dollars more than he was paid to play in Peoria. To earn additional money, he hunted during the winter and supplied meat to local restaurants. (2)

Radbourne shut out Rockford 8-0 in his first game. He went on to hit .387 as a right fielder and develop an impressive, although unrecorded, won lost record as a pitcher. By August the Rabbits were so far ahead in the league that the other teams quit, and the Northwest League folded. Radbourne and the Rabbits spent the rest of the season on tour. According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Radbourne played in 47 games, placed 72 hits for a .337 batting average and scored 31 runs. (3)

Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn held the record for the most wins in a season in big league history: 59 victories in 1884. He finished the season with astounding totals of 441 strikeouts and 73 complete games. Though his career spanned just 11 seasons, Radbourn amassed 309 victories, winning 20 or more games nine times and finishing 488 of the 502 games he started. (4)



1. McKenna, Brian. "Old Hoss" Radbourne. Society for American Baseball Research. SABR Baseball Biography Project, Online: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/83bf739e

2. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, October 4, 1879, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18791004&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. McKenna

4. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Online: http://baseballhall.org/hof/radbourn-charles