|Moses Solomon, the Rabbi of Swat|
By Howard Lavelle*
"For the hour will come when
Your vigor will fade,
And Fortune, ye know is a slippery jade;
The Partition's but flimsy, `twixt
glory and shame
And Solomon like Napoleon
is now lost to fame."
Homer King Solomon ruled supreme for one brief and brilliant year. He wore the flowing purple in 1923, when he rode with the long ball lords of the past. He hit 49 roundtrippers that year for Hutchinson in the Southwestern League, the highest total ever recorded in the minor leagues up to that point.
Moses Solomon out homered them all, the big and the small, in the width and the breadth of the land. Only one home run king in organized baseball hit more big ones in one season than Old Hickory, and that was the greatest of them all, Babe Ruth, in 1920 (54), and 1921 (59).
The 23-year-old slugging Solomon was to all appearances the answer to John McGraw's quest for a "Jewish Babe Ruth". A "Jewish Appeal", the mercenary McGraw figured, would help to offset the tremendous drawing power of the Babe in his new tower of babble. Ruth, the greatest money player of all time, had hit a typical Ruthian homer to open Yankee Stadium in 1923.
McGraw was anxious to compete with the Yankees in the increasingly heavy Jewish residential areas of the Bronx and upper Manhattan. Although Solomon's sensational slugging was done in the Class C Southwestern League, he was also a native of New York City, which only whetted McGraw's enthusiasm. The Giants paid $4,500 for the Rabbi of Swat.
Moses had come out of the wilderness of the long ball wastes into the limelight of New York's baseball climate. Moses was toasted as the best minor league homer hitter since Perry Werden's monumental 45 home runs with Minneapolis (Western League) in 1895. Solomon should have had a flat 50 home runs, but one of his clouts (August 26th) was washed out by rain.
Solomon was brought up to the National League by the Giants at the tail end of the 1923 season. The pennant winning Giants were on a four year pennant push (1921-24) and had a veteran outfield of Ross Youngs, Irish Meusel, and Casey Stengel.
Two forgotten rookies on the bench beside Solomon were Lewis Robert "Hack" Wilson, a squat muscular home run hitting outfielder (he had led two minor leagues in homers, the Blue Ridge League in 1922 with 30 homers, and the Virginia League in 1923 with 19), and the other was William Harold Terry whose only claim to fame was in - pitching a no-hit game for Newnan against Anniston in the Georgia-
Florida League in 1915 when he was 17 years old.
The three of them each made three games. Terry batted .143, Wilson hit an even .200, while Solomon scored a fancy .375. What happened to them? Terry became the last National Leaguer to hit over .400 for a season (.401 in 1930). Wilson set the National League home run record of 56, also in 1930.
*This is one of the articles left by Mr. Lavelle upon his death in 1974.
And Moses Solomon? The king abdicated. The clouting colossus of the southwest collapsed. His fielding was atrocious. He couldn't catch a fly without flypaper. He was a hazard on defense, not for himself, but for the risk he imposed upon his teammates.
The king was soon exiled to the minors, shorn of his tinsel and glamour. The Rabbi of Swat had become a rabbit of swatters, the long ball touch was gone. He did, however, hit over .300 seven times in the minors.
Solomon had whacked more homers in his one year at Hutchinson, than he did in the rest of his combined baseball career. A sadder but wiser man, he quit in 1930 at 30 years of age. Moses then moved into the real estate game, where he became richer and happier.
The home run king who had become a merchant prince passed away in Miami, Florida, June 25, 1965. Even his minor league home run title lasted for just one season. Here is the evolution of the top four-ply figure in the bushes.
Year Home Run Hitter Club & League Class Total
1895 Perry Werden Minneapolis, West. - 45
1923 Moses Solomon Hutchinson, So-West. C 49
1924 Clarence Kraft Fort Worth, Texas A 55
1925 Tony Lazzeri Salt Lake City, PCL AA 60
1926 Moose Clabaugh Tyler, East Texas D 62
1930 Joe Hauser Baltimore, Interntl. AA 63
1933 Joe Hauser Minneapolis, Am. As. AA 69
1948 Bob Crues Amarillo, W. Tex-N.M. C 69
1954 Joe Bauman Roswell, Longhorn C 72