Introducing… Firebrand Stovall

George “The Firebrand” Stovall was a hot-tempered Missouri country boy who was a fan favorite of the Cleveland Indians during the Deadball Era.  During Stovall’s tenure with Cleveland the club was usually referred to as the Naps after star player Nap Lajoie, but George was a valuable piece to the team’s success.  One of the top first basemen of his day, Firebrand was an elite defender with a decent stick, but his volatile nature got the better of him at times.  He once was ousted as player/manager when he let loose an ample stream of tobacco in an umpire’s face after a disagreement. 

Born in Leeds, Missouri, Firebrand was already 26-years-old when given his first look in the Majors.  He followed brother Jesse “Scout” Stovall to the Majors and even though Scout pitched for Cleveland in 1903, the Stovall bothers weren’t teammates on the Naps because Jesse joined Detroit during George’s rookie season.  In his freshman season, Firebrand hit .298–it would be the highest mark of his career.  Stovall began to play regularly in 1905 but not at a fixed position.  He was employed at first, second and third base his first three years in the Majors before settling in at the initial sack in 1907. 

A gifted defender at first base, Firebrand possessed exceptional range afield.  The quick fielding Missouri boy led his league in assists four times and fielding percentage twice.  Firebrand enjoyed perhaps his finest year in 1908 when he hit .292 and set career highs in runs scored, hits (6th in AL), doubles (5th in AL) and total bases (7th in AL).  The Naps were contenders during the Deadball Era–they finished second in 1908–but never could get to the World Series while Stovall was with the club. 

In 1909 Firebrand set a personal high in triples and began a three-year string of leading first basemen in assists.  The following year he upped his RBI total and led American League first basemen with a .988 fielding percentage.  In 1911, his last year with Cleveland, he again led first basemen in fielding percentage and set a career high with 79 RBI.  Stovall managed the Indians most of the 1911 season but his intense qualities led to his trade to the Browns for Lefty George.  The Browns dismissed Bobby Wallace as skipper after a poor start in 1912 and gave the manager’s job to Firebrand who acted as player/manager.  St. Louis finished in seventh place under George’s watch and when he splattered the face of a cantankerous arbiter in 1913, the Browns dismissed him and gave his job to Jimmy Austin.

Firebrand was essentially run out of the American League for creating a makeshift spittoon.  But fortunately for Stovall the Federal League began play as a third Major League in 1914 and he caught on as first baseman/manager of the Kansas City Packers.  In the Federal League’s first year of operation, Firebrand had a heckuva season by setting a career high with seven homeruns while also driving home 75 runs.  But he was unable to duplicate his success in 1915 and when the Federal League folded, Firebrand’s days in the Majors were over.  After his playing days, the 40-year-old Stovall helped his country during time of war when he worked at a shipyard during World War I.  Fifteen years later, during WWII, Firebrand returned to the shipyards and helped build vessels during the Second World War.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,414/R 547/H 1,382/2B 231/3B 56/HR 15/RBI 564/SB 142/BB 174/SO 324/BA .265/OBP .293/SA .339

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2 comments
  1. I enjoyed reading your article. I believe “Firebrand’ and ‘Scout’ were cousins of my grandpa. Do you know anything about their pre-baseball lives? Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • brettkiser said:

      The book “The Glory of Their Times,” by Lawrence Ritter, mentions Firebrand Stovall in a rather humorous tale regarding chewing tobacco, an umpire and Stovall’s short fuse. I believe the story was told to Ritter by Rube Marquard, but I might be wrong. Ritter interviewed a lot of former players who played when Stovall did, and Firebrand, as his nickname would suggest, was a spitfire. If you pick the book up, peruse the interview with Marquard first–I’m almost certain he was the player who told that story, but I could be wrong. The chewing tobacco incident led to his expulsion from the American League.

      Personally, I don’t have anything else regarding his background. I dig up most my biographical information courtesy newspaperarchive.com.

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