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January 17, 1889: Ollie Welf

Born on this day 131 years ago today, Oliver Henry Welf was a Cleveland man through and through. It was the town in which he was born and it was the town whose baseball team would give him the chance of a lifetime. Though Welf got little more chance to prove himself than the famous Moonlight Graham did the decade before with the New York Giants, Welf reached the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians in 1916.

Welf began his professional career in 1910 as a pitcher with the Greenwood Chauffeurs of the D-League Cotton States League where he went 16-7 in 25 games. He spent his next three seasons pitching for Greenwood, Meridian and Hattiesburg/Columbus where he was never able to crack the big leagues. After all, he had only managed to reach D-Level competition and was nowhere near baseball's biggest stage.

He stepped away from baseball after the 1913 season and didn't reappear until three years later when the Indians gave their hometown boy a shot. On August 30 of that season, he appeared not in the field and not in the batter's box, but as a pinch runner. At Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. against the Senators, pinch ran, but did not score in an Indians 3-1 loss on the road. Dropping to 67-59, Cleveland entered a tailspin in the season's final month and finished 10-18 down the stretch to finish the season an even 77-77.

Welf hung up the cleats and never played professional baseball again. He passed away in 1967 in Cleveland, where he was born and where he lived out his dream. Welf is buried at Lake View Cemetery in that same city, which saw him through all his failures and triumphs.


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