George Tomer is known in Perry as the only native son to have played Major League baseball and as a participant in the 1922 game when Yankee’s Babe Ruth came to town. Tomer played ball for at least seventeen different teams during his career and semi-pro ball for a few more. His baseball travels make for quite an interesting story, but this article is concerned primarily with his start in pro ball over a hundred years ago.
The Dubuque Times Journal on March 24, 1912 reported that 43 men had tried out for the Dubuque Hustlers team in the Blass B Three – I League. Among them was listed “G. Tomer – OF age 21.” Dubuque’s manager was Pants Rowland, who later led the 1917 Chicago White Sox to a World Championship. On April 16 the Telegraph Herald, shaving two years off George’s previously stated age, had this story:
A nineteen-year-old youth walked into the sanctum of baseball headquarters and announced himself as George Tomer, the slugging outfielder hailing from Perry, Iowa. The “kid” did not waiver under the critical eye of the boss, and with a world of confidence requested that he be given his uniform, desiring to get in the harness immediately…With a wallop that resounded throughout the enclosure the youth sent the pellet sailing far over the heads of those stationed about the field.
During that week of April the Dubuque papers continued to praise the play of Tomer, who had two hits, including a three-run homer, in an exhibition game with Sacred Heart College. On April 23, though, he was cut. the Telegraph Herald wrote, “Rowland has sent him back only that the rough edges may be removed….His hitting strength should land him a berth in any Class C or D league even this summer.” However, perhaps the manager discovered that Tomer was neither 21 nor 19, but only 16 years old! His birth date was November 26, 1895 and he was holding his own with seasoned players.
The next year the Telegraph Herald reported that the “kid” was batting over .300 and was the fastest outfielder in the Kitty League, playing for Henderson, Kentucky. By the end of the year, he was on the bench of the American League St. Louis Browns. On September 17, 1913, manger Branch Rickey sent him up to bate once and he struck out. His age was 17 years, 9 months, 21 days. Although he continued playing well for many years thereafter, he never got another chance at the big leagues. Only one other player in recorded history of Major League baseball had but a single at bat at a younger age.