Born 130 years ago on Feb. 2 was Illinois baseball player Charles Raymond “Ray” Demmitt. A native of Illiopolis, the 5-foot-8, 170-pound outfielder lettered in 1905 and ’06 for coach George Huff.
The ’05 Illini finished second in the Big Ten, then took the title the following season with an 8-3 league record. Demmitt began his Major League Baseball career at age 25 in 1909 for the New York Highlanders (who became the Yankees in 1913).
In his rookie season, he shared the outfield with Hall of Famer “Wee Willie” Keeler, batting .246 in 123 games. His four home runs in ’09 ranked sixth among American League hitters.
It was in 1909 that he appeared on one of the earliest sets of tobacco baseball cards. In mint condition today, Demmitt’s card now brings a price of nearly $3,000.
On Dec. 16, 1909, he was traded to the St. Louis Browns. He only appeared in 10 games in 1910 and wouldn’t appear again on a big league roster for another four years. In 1914 Demmitt played one game for the Detroit Tigers, then was purchased by the Chicago White Sox for $2,500. He hit .258 for the Sox, including a pair of home runs and 46 RBI. Demmitt only appeared in 10 games in 1915, being released early in the season.
After a season in the minors, he caught on again with the Browns in 1917 and spent that year and two more in St. Louis. His 61 RBI in 1918 ranked seventh in the AL. Careerwise, he played in 498 big league games, averaging .257 through seven seasons.
Ray Demmitt died Feb. 19, 1956, at 72 and is buried in the Mount Pulaski Cemetery.
Sunday: Melissa Beitz, volleyball (35)
Monday: Derek Holcomb, basketball (56)
Tuesday: Jeff Hasenstab, football (42)
Wednesday: Lindsey Carstens, soccer (28)
Thursday: Tracy Abrams, basketball (22)
Friday: Taylor Gleason, basketball (19)
Saturday: Brian Randle, basketball (29)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore
Get Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @B1GLLL or on Facebook at Big Ten Legends, Lists & Lore