Flick, 87 years old, made the trip to Cooperstown and spoke extemporaneously in what was at the time a small induction ceremony. He was proud of the recognition, and proud of his achievements.
“It’ll be there for all time,” he said of the plaque commemorating him.
And now, Flick will have another honor for all time – a statue in his hometown of Bedford. The statue, which will be dedicated Sept. 25, is the culmination of almost a decade’s work.
Jim Wagner was given the task of doing some research on local history as one of the Bedford schools celebrated a centennial in 2004. He came across Flick’s name as a famous alumnus.
“Nobody even knew anything about him in Bedford,” Wagner said.
Flick was born in Bedford and played for the high school team and the local town team. In 1896, he was signed sight unseen by the Youngstown Puddlers in the Inter-State League. He played for Dayton, another team in the Inter-State League, in 1897, and from there was signed by manager George Stallings to play for the Phillies. He was almost immediately pressed into service. He played for the Phillies through 1902, and signed with his hometown team, then called the Broncos.
In 1905, Flick won the American League batting title with a .308 average, the lowest by a league batting champion until Carl Yastrzemski’s .301 in 1968. In spring training in 1907, Flick was mentioned as a possible trade with Detroit for a good-hitting head case named Ty Cobb. Cleveland turned down the deal.
The same year Flick joined the Broncos, the team signed Napoleon Lajoie. The two had fought in the clubhouse at one point at the Baker Bowl, but meshed well in Cleveland. The same would probably not be able to be said about Lajoie and Cobb, who were bitter rivals throughout their storied careers. “I think one of them would have killed the other,” Flick’s grandson Charles Chubb said about Cobb and Lajoie as teammates.
Cobb, of course, went on to be one of the greatest hitters of all time. Flick’s best days were behind him. Stomach issues plagued him through the rest of his career, and he played his last major league game in 1910.
Flick returned to Bedford and worked as a carpenter. There might be some houses in Bedford today that were built by a Baseball Hall of Famer.
After Cobb died in 1961, the story about his aborted trade to Cleveland was revived, and people started to take a look at Flick’s statistics. Flick ended his career with a .313 average, and twice had led the league in triples and stolen bases. In 1963, Flick got a call – delivered to him by Branch Rickey – telling him he was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. The family took the trip to Cooperstown.
While there, Flick’s baseball-crazy grandson Chubb was in heaven. Chubb grew up in Detroit rooting for Al Kaline and the Tigers, and switched allegiances in 1959 when his parents moved to Chicago just in time to see the Go-Go White Sox win the pennant. In fact, Flick mentioned Chubb in his induction speech.
“He was in (the museum) looking for five hours,” Flick said. “We couldn’t get him out of there, and he wants to go back.” The family then watched the Hall of Fame game between the Red Sox and the Braves. Chubb, now living near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said they’re looking forward to the statue’s unveiling, and it’s possible that he’ll see cousins he’s never met before.
“We hope to make it a family reunion,” he said.
Chubb said the statue unveiling isn’t a tribute just to Flick. It’s a tribute to Wagner, who worked tirelessly to make it happen.
“Bless his heart, he persevered,” Chubb said of Wagner. “Without Jim Wagner, this probably wouldn’t be done.”
Wagner started soliciting donations for the statue, but after the economy collapsed in 2008, charitable donations were harder to come by. But a $20,000 donation from the Bedford Automile Association revived the project, which has raised $37,500 to date. The goal is $50,000, and the project is also selling brick pavers.
The dedication will be from noon to 2 p.m. Larry Morrow and Tim Taylor, a Bedford native, will serve as masters of ceremonies for the event, and special guests including Indians officials, former players and sculptor Ron Dewey are expected to be on hand. There will also be hot dogs and baseballs given away, and an appearance by Slider.
Wagner described Chubb and Flick’s descendants as being very appreciative, and Chubb said the statue is a tribute to ambition, family values, community involvement and hard work.