There's more to spring than April showers watering the flowers.
Each April, Opening Day returns, and whether a little boy or girl has just picked up their very first ball or agonized 50 years over their favorite losing team, April brings new dreams and new chances to play, to watch and to hope that baseball will finally make everything right.
Eddie Mensor didn't have a Hall of Fame baseball career, but he managed to leave with a reputation, not as "a boy with a powerful punch exactly, but one who got on the bags, knew what to do when on, a good batsman, a brilliant fielder and also a player of the type who hurries the opposition on every play made on him." (Sporting Life)
In May 1913, Eddie notched a footnote in baseball history with a base on balls that ended legendary pitcher Christy Mathewson's 49-inning stretch without allowing a walk — a record at the time. (Within a couple of months, Mathewson set a new record of 68 innings. The current record is 841ĀĄ3 innings.)
In three years with Pittsburgh, Eddie came to the plate 244 times and left the major leagues with a .221 batting average and one home run.
Although baseball reference materials show Eddie being born Nov. 7, 1886, both Jacksonville newspapers of that year, the Oregon Sentinel and the Democratic Times, reported his birth as Nov. 5.
Eddie had a long and apparently happy marriage of more than 50 years to Mae Simmons of Douglas County. He passed away April 20, 1970 — 14 days after baseball's Opening Day.
Eddie Mensor was working on that dream all the way back when baseball was barely 60 years old and the New York Yankees were called the New York Highlanders.
Born in 1886, when Rogue River still was called Woodville, Eddie was the grandson of one of Jacksonville's earliest settlers, Morris Mensor. Of Mensor's 14 children, nine were boys.
In 1878, eight of those sons, including 4-year-old Albert as their second baseman, joined with their father to challenge and bet that they could win a baseball game against any other family team in Southern Oregon.
Eddie's father, Henry, was the standout athlete in a family of athletes. He played ball with the Jacksonville baseball team and for about a decade was one of the area's fastest runners, challenging all comers to match his speed and his $100.
Growing up was hard for Eddie Mensor. The entire family moved to San Francisco after his grandfather's death, and in 1893, when Eddie was 6, his father divorced Eddie's mother. Within four years, his father had taken out a marriage license for one woman and finally married another. But Eddie's stepmother lasted only four years before she divorced his father, accusing Henry of cruelty.
When Eddie had just turned 17, he began boxing for money as a lightweight. He also had a few minor scrapes with the law and seemed to be heading down a dangerous path, until he began to play baseball in the amateur city park leagues.
Eddie was officially listed at 145 pounds and 5-foot-6, but that was probably a stretch. As far as all the ballplayers were concerned, Eddie was little, and they nicknamed him "Eddie the Midget."
In the summer of 1908, Eddie turned professional and started at shortstop for the Oakland team of the California State League. He bounced around Bay Area teams until July 1910, when he landed the starting shortstop job at San Jose, just before the team folded.
A .321 hitter for San Jose and a sure-handed speed demon at short, Eddie agreed to sign with Walter McCredie, manager of the Portland Beavers. After a year with the Beavers, Eddie played with the Portland Roadsters of the Northwest League and, just as he was preparing to return to the Beavers in 1912, his contract was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates for $3,000. Eddie received $2,100 a season, a figure usually reserved for outstanding pitchers.
By August, Eddie was batting .370, third in the league. That's when he was spiked by an opposing runner while he was fielding at second. The next day, he sprained his ankle and was out for three weeks. The day he returned to the lineup, he re-injured the ankle, and although he continued with Pittsburgh through the 1914 season, he wasn't ever the ballplayer he had been.
For the next six or seven years he played with a variety of professional teams on the West Coast, finally retiring to his home near Salem. There he was a maintenance worker in a petroleum plant and an amateur baseball coach.
Eddie "The Midget" Mensor had gotten his chance and fulfilled his dream.
And now, it's April again. The dreams are back, and hope begins anew.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at email@example.com.