NevadaGram #165 — Wheezer Dell, Two New Breweries

I’ve just come from spending three pleasant days delving into the Wheezer Dell archive, and especially the thick scrapbook into which Eleanor Dell had pasted newspaper clippings about her husband’s career as a baseball player. Wheezer Dell collection of signed baseballs

It begins with accounts of games he pitched for the Seattle Giants after they were married in 1914, carries through his three years with Brooklyn, his afteryears in the Pacific Coast League, first with Vernon and then Seattle again, then the Atlanta Crackers, and at last to Beaumont Texas where he pitched his final season in 1926 for the Exporters.

What’s In A Name?

There have been various explanations for the nick-name Wheezer. Wheezer Dell in Ripley's "believe It Or Not"Having seen his photograph, I supposed it came from his nose having been kissed by the back side of a shovel once upon a time.
Another theory was that it was inspired by his forceful grunts as he delivered his wicked fastball.
Both wrong. An article in the album came closer: “When Dell reported to Brooklyn from Wesier [sic], Idaho, he was known as ‘Wesier'[sic] Dell. Brooklyn scribes apparently did not know there was any such state as Idaho, much less a town by that name, which caused his wife to wire him from Idaho to ask if he had contracted hay fever. . . .”
He didn’t come from Weiser Idaho of course, but his family had connections there, and visits were common; he and Eleanor were married there.
But in fact the name was applied to little William in childhood by his older siblings, who teased him by singing out every time they saw him, “Wee Willie Weiser, pig-tail squeezer!”
So as a tyke he was Wee Willie Weiser, and grew up as “Weiser” in and out of the family. His wedding announcement in the Butte newspaper had this headline, “Big Weiser Dell Is Married to Butte Girl”.
I found the definitive evidence in the memorabilia collection, on a baseball bearing the signatures of the 1916 Dodgers attending a 1949 World Series reunion. He signed his name Weiser. Yet he is forever in the record books as Wheezer.1916 Brooklyn Robins signed baseball

The album has some peculiarities. The sheets the news clips had been pasted on were brittle, many of them torn away from the binding so that over the years the loose pages had got out of order. And the clippings aren’t dated or sourced, just clipped out and pasted in. And then she made it even more interesting by treating each page as a mosaic collage, and pasting small clips in the gaps left by big ones, so there is no certainty of source or sequence.

albumpages1-300x200Most of the clips are game reports but there are also some reminiscences and other features that throw light on the years before Eleanor, so that a firmly grounded sketch of his life emerges, and of the two serious questions I had in my mind, the album answered one but not both.


He was born William George Dell in Tuscarora June 11, 1886, and moved by 1890 to Butte Montana where he was such a good high school quarterback that he was allowed an extra year of football eligibility after graduation. He played sandlot baseball as a kid, and was a pitcher on the high school team.

After he graduated he went to work at the mine as an electrician, and pitched for a semi-pro company team. After that he pitched for a succession of bush league teams, working as a journeyman electrician at the mine in the winter and a journeyman ballplayer around the Northwest in the summer.

In 1908 he signed with the Vancouver Beavers in the old Northwest League and helped them win the pennant. Four years later he was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals. He had made it to the big leagues!

Wheezer Dell, St. Louis Cardinals 1912

Wheezer Dell during his brief stint with the St. Louis Cardinals, 1912

He lasted three weeks.

There are a few references to his brief interlude with the Cards in the album, centered on his beefs with manager Roger Bresnahan, and there is no mystery about his quick departure. Wheezer wasn’t satisfied with his contract and Bresnahan wasn’t. satisfied with Wheezer’s attitude. One reporter wrote later, “Roger Bresnahan, manager of the Cubs, says that the only thing that will keep Weiser Dell, Seattle pitcher, from being a sensation on the National League is laziness. Dell was with St. Louis when Bresnahan was there but didn’t try very hard to make good.”.

Wheezer's Scrapbook

Wheezer finished out the 1912 season in Butte, went to Seattle in 1913, and back to the big leagues with Brooklyn in 1915. Fast forward, past his World Series game of 1916 (he closed out the last game of the Series, which they lost to the Boston Red Sox), to the fourth of July, 1917 and the other mystery I had hoped to solve.

Wheezer Dell RHP Brooklyn Robins 1915-1917

Wheezer had a blazing fastball.

Wheezer had pitched in 17 games so far that season, starting four, and was 0-4 on the year. He’d given up 24 earned runs on 35 hits, three of them homers, and acquired an earned run average of 3.72. On this 4th of July the Robins* played a double-header against New York. Wheezer’s team-mates that day included Zack Wheat, Casey Stengel, Rube Marquard and Chief Meyers among the Hall-of-Famers.

Five Years Ago in the NevadaGram

Saturday night last we gathered together in Virginia City with some of the top journalists of northern Nevada to re-enact an event that took place at John Piper’s Corner Saloon on February 3rd, 1863 — the day Sam Clemens’ byline, “Mark Twain” first appeared in print.

We sequestered our 22 jack-leg journalists at the Cafe del Rio for a friendly meal in a private room upstairs, where we might not disturb the docile diners below. The Del Rio had just won a big prize in the 27th annual Chili on the Comstock Regional Cook-off, so the staff were in high spirits when we arrived. By the time we left for the Old Corner Bar, however, they looked somewhat shopworn, and happy to see us go.

McAvoy Layne as Sam Clemens at the Old Corner Bar, Piper's Opera House Virginia City Nevada

At the Old Corner Bar, nestled in the south-east corner of Piper’s Opera House, Sam Clemens climbed up onto a hay bale and told it pretty much as it happened. . . .”I told you how I took my name on the river, two fathoms — safe water, ‘twain,’ being the biblical term for ‘two.’ But now I’m going to tell you the truth.
We would put the paper to bed at the Enterprise and come over here to the Corner Saloon for a restorative — to sweeten the bilge waters a little. John Piper had a board behind the bar, and on occasion he would mark a credit for his favorite customers. And no sooner would I walk through these swinging doors of the Corner Saloon with one of my drinking companions, than a regular would shout out, ‘Mark Twain!’

And John Piper would mark two on the board behind the bar! So now you know the truth, the petrified truth.”

McAvoy Layne as Sam Clemens at the Old Corner Bar, Piper's Opera House Virginia City Nevada

“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story! — you can quote me on that!”

Read the whole thing here

Marquard, an ex-Giant, was the starter for Brooklyn. He ran into trouble in the third inning and gave up 5 runs. He gave up another run in the 4th and with one out manager Wilbert Robinson called on Wheezer. Wheezer then pitched two scoreless innings (despite hitting Giants shortstop Art Fletcher with a pitch) but gave up three runs in the 7th and was yanked. Red Smyth pinch-hit for him in the 8th and struck out.
The New York Times reported: “John Armstrong Russell, the young man Brooklyn snared in far-off Vancouver, pitched the last two innings, and looked better than Rube and Wheezer put together.”

Oh, Fare Thee Well!

Wheezer Dell,
oh, fare thee well.
Farewell, farewell
oh, Wheezer Dell
Oh, nevermore
the bugs will yell
A fine salute
oh, Wheezer Dell!

Brooklyn lost both ends of the double-header and Wheezer never played for the Robins again. Why? He hit a batter and made an error, but the game was already lost. I might have missed a clipping that explained his disappearance, but. . . . he was gone.

I did find one clue. A clipping relating to his minor league career made this reference to his Brooklyn years: “Dell was a curiosity of hard luck when with Brooklyn. He was the best-looking pitcher who could not win that ever broke into the National League. Upon one occasion the Superbas failed to score a run for him in 44 consecutive innings. Some of the innings were in games he started and others in games he finished, but no matter what the conditions were, the Superbas could not put over a run.”

Wheezer was gone from the major leagues for good after that game. By the following spring he was playing for the Vernon Tigers in the Pacific Coast League and beginning a truly magical stretch of years that put him in the PCL Hall of Fame — and the movies.

*The Brooklyn team was fielded as the Atlantics (1884), Grays, Bridegrooms, Grooms, Bridegrooms again, Superbas, Trolley Dodgers, Superbas again, Robins and finally Dodgers (1932).

A Stellar New Brewery in Virginia City

Virginia City Brewery & Tap House, Virginia City Nevada

The new beer emporium opened for Virginia City’s recent Testicle Festival.

An interesting addition to C Street is taking place at 27 South (original address) and you can visit and watch its progress while the tanks and kettles are still coming together. They’ll be pouring their own by the end of April; until then kegs from other brewers are chilling in the 1930s cooler they inherited with the building. The Virginia City Brewery and Tap House occupies what was once a butcher shop, the entire ground floor rehabbed back to its original brick walls and pine floors.
Everything has been beautifully done, as you might expect from four partners in the building trades, and equally beautiful was their solution to the lack of even a tiny kitchen. Customers order food by phone, choosing a menu from any of three local restaurants that deliver to the brewery. The new slogan: “Best Selection of Food in Virginia City!”

Territorial Enterprise Editor<br/>Elizabeth Johnson

Territorial Enterprise Editor Elizabeth Johnson: Getting ready to bite?

The TE is back! The premier edition of The Territorial Enterprise seems a bit prim and polite, considering its sometimes tough and always trenchant editorial forebears. But perhaps a closer acquaintance with the realities of the Silver State will abrade away the charm and show us some teeth.

What They’re Saying About Us: The Associated Press reports that state lawmakers and Governor Sandoval are taking steps to preserve the historic Stewart Indian School in Carson City.
Brief notes from Beyond the Mountains: Reno Never looked so good. I’ve been known to point out that 1965 was Reno‘s last great year and I will defend that position at any cost. Still, I have to admit that Matt Brown makes the modern city look good . . .

A Splendid New Brewery for Tonopah

Tonopah Brewery

Tonopah’s first brewery in more than a century has opened across the parking lot from the Mizpah Hotel. Like the hotel it is an enterprise of the enterprising Fred and Nancy Cline family and it adds to the appeal of Tonopah as an overnight stop on the long haul between Reno and Las Vegas on US 95.

The steam-heated, custom-made system from Bavaria, Germany is run by pneumatic controls and allows decoction and step infusion. It is quite beautiful.

“Beer and bones go together,” manager Richard Weathers says, explaining the barbeque-based menu. It reflects his years in the south, where barbeque can be a religion. The meat is slow-cooked and tender, and a wide selection of sauces—from sweet to tangy to scorching–can be paired with any of the beers from brewmaster Lance Jergensen.

Pete’s Gambling Hall in Winnemucca went non-smoking the day before St. Patrick’s Day. You might think that only amounts to slapping up some signs here and there, but noooo. Leprechauns are now intensively cleaning all the slot machines and HVAC ducting in preparation for new paint and carpet. The Winnemucca Chamber will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the re-opening April 30 — yes, that’s how long it takes — and patrons will have to snuff their smokes at the door . . .

Ten Years Ago in the NevadaGram

While we were in Winnemucca, Virginia City was playing host to western region Hummer dealers who came to see and drive the new models. Several dozen of the bright behemoths were on hand. Hummers in Virginia City Nevada After an overnight snowfall, a friendly local asked a member of the factory team if they’d chained up their Hummers.
“Chained them up to what?” he responded.
“No, I mean with snow chains,” our man explained.
“Oh, no,” he replied emphatically, “We don’t drive them in the snow!”
For hours on end the enormous machines crept slowly around the carefully constructed course to the edification and delight of all concerned.Hummers in Virginia City Nevada

Read the whole thing here

The Clark County Fair & Rodeo will be held over five days, from Wednesday April 8th through Sunday April 12th, at Logandale in the verdant and fertile Moapa Valley — where the locals were growing crops with sophisticated irrigation systems a thousand years ago. The Fair features scores of fascinating exhibits guaranteed to delight young and old, a livestock show, and a great carnival with midway games and lots of rides from the mild to the really wild. The big draw is the professional Rodeo, and it’s the real thang — one of only 20 of the nation’s best included in the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour . . . Crossover country music performer Suzy Bogguss will star in the sixth annual “A Night to Imagine” benefit at 8 pm Friday April 10 at Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City. Suzy has a handful of platinum and gold albums, received the “Top New Female Vocalist” award from the Academy of Country Music and scored a string of Top 10 singles . . . There’s a Tuscarora Exhibition in the Sierra Room at The Carson City Community Center on US-50 just east of Roop Street . . . The Henderson Heritage Parade begins on April 18, the annual celebration features Nevada’s pioneering history and features a community breakfast with members of the Henderson City Counsel and a festive parade decorated under the theme “The Good Old Days”. There will be good food, music and a car show. Admission is complementary.

Tahoe Ridge Winery, Bistro & Marketplace has opened a second location in Carson City. Like its Minden elder sibling, it offers wine tasting and wine sales and serves bistro menu items for lunch and dinner. Customers can sample the olive oil and balsamic vinegar as well as the wines. A new production facility is planned here too . . . Spring Creek holds their 30th Annual Rodeo on April 18-19 . . . In southern Nevada, the Laughlin’s River Run is scheduled for April 22-26 . . .
In the north, Reno plays host to a unique dinning event where a melodious grouping of fine dining restaurants pair up elegant recipes to select micro brews. The Reno Roving Dinner Beer Pairing event is on April 23rd at 6pm until 9pm . . .
The Pahrump Earth Day Festival at Ian Deutch Memorial Park, 10a-3 April 25th offers food, educational exhibits, solar cooking, animal viewing, give-aways, music, and more, all while basking in the wonderful spring weather . . . Virginia City’s Grand Prix starts n April 25th and ends on the 26th, the track runs through the desolate and picturesque Virginia Range and terminates at the old freight depot on D street . . .

Take a Ride on the V&T

Virginia & Truckee Rail Road was our 2015 Attraction of the Year selection, and this video shows why. . . .

There are more than 1,900 edible insect species on Earth — so why don’t we eat them? UNR Cultural Anthropologist Dr. Michelle Roberts will will discuss insects and diet in Southeast Asia at the Wilbur D. May Museum April 25, 4-6 pm followed by a bug tasting. The menu includes crickets, bamboo worm pupae, black ant eggs, silkworm and grasshopper kebabs, chocolate covered superworms, white chocolate ant wafers, and grain moth larvae poop tea to wash it all down! $25 per person, limited to 40 people, advance reservation required! Call 785-5961 to reserve a spot. [**Warning: Insects may pose a risk to people with allergies to shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crayfish) or dust mites] . . . Dust mites? . . . Just over the border in South Lake Tahoe Author Jackie Boor will present Logan: The Honorable Life and Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman on April 25th at 1pm. Catch a glimpse of the wildwest in it’s raw luster.

Overheard at the Virginia City Brewery & Tap House in Virginia City: “Just remember Larry, death is the price of life, and the blessing is, it can come at any time just the way life did.”

Parting Shot —
Coyote and Hawk along the trail

Hunting partners in the Wild by Laura Lea White

My love for photography started with landscape, scenery, and nature. I have expanded my passion to other areas of photography as my life has changed. I have developed my knowledge by taking lots of photos and have continued to increase that knowledge to better myself and my photography.

My family was my inspiration to start my business. My husband, Lewis, and I have been married for 43 years, our home towns in Carson City. We have three grown children.

My style for photography is from my perspective. Sometimes it is bold and simplistic. I prefer to use natural lighting. I do not have a studio, but prefer on-location work. Sessions in all kinds of weather can be fun and entertaining.

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