By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
Deacon White – Signed by the Bisons in 1881
James “Deacon” White was born and raised in Caton, New York, a small town located between Corning and the Pennsylvania State line. It took him a while to work his way to professional baseball, but once he did his impact was undeniable.
He arrived in the National Association – the nation’s first all-professional league – in 1871, and had the first at-bat, made the first catch and had the first hit. The catcher also was one of the first players at his position to use a glove. White jumped to the National League when it was formed in 1876, and continue to build his reputation as one of the best players in the league. During the 1870s he was a part of five straight championship teams.
In 1881, he was a man without a team at the age of 33, and he signed with Buffalo. White’s catching days were over, so he stuck to the infield. There he showed he could still hit, averaging .301 as a member of the Bisons over five years. But when the franchise started to fail in 1885, the team sold him to the Detroit Wolverines.
White returned to Buffalo in 1890 to finish his career as a member of the Players’ League at the age of 42. That makes him one of the few players to play in two unassociated leagues in the same sport. At the age of 42, White played 122 games at third base for Buffalo. He also was one of the investors in the team. White had a couple of famous teammates on that roster. Connie Mack, Buffalo’s catcher, managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 seasons and was at least part owner from 1901 to 1954. Center field William “Dummy” Hoy was the most accomplished deaf player in the history of major league baseball, and is one of 29 players to participate in games in four major leagues.
White retired as baseball’s all-time leader in games played and hits. Later he and brother Will started the Buffalo Optical Company, which still exists today. “Deacon” – he was known as one of the few church-going players in the sport in his day – was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.
Here is his Hall of Fame bio:
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