Stover, Rexford B. (1983)
REXFORD (BEANIE) STOVER
During much of the first quarter of this century, Beanie Stover "“backstopped” for some of the top professional baseball teams in Maine.
The retired Bath Iron Works tinsmith celebrated his 84th birthday earlier this year.
The “backstop” to Beanie is not wire and wood but a genuine flesh and blood catcher.
Beanie still bears the signs of that position with several dislocated hand joints and a damaged tendon.
"Beanie” is short for Rexford Brenton Stover.
"When I was a little boy I used to run away a lot, so my mother tied me to a post outside the house..
My neighbor, Ernest Heath, tried unsuccessfully to get me to say my name. Finally, with the inducement of candy, I muttered a sound like beanie .
I have been called that ever Since, he said.
Beanie dropped out of Morse High School in favor of the financial attraction of playing baseball. “I joined the Bath Team in 1914. We took the name Defiance after the Bath Iron Works-built ship of that name that was a defender of the America’s Cup," Beanie remembered.
He also played for a time behind the plate for Freddie Parent's Goodall Sanford team. He batted .397 while there.
Beanie's backstopping attracted some big league eyes. He was asked to report to the Chicago White Sox during the summer of 1918.
"It was basically bullpen duty.
Anybody who had a glove could have done the same thing. The World War I Graft had taken its toll on the big league rosters". Later that summer the league was disbanded because of the war, and Beanie was out of a job.
Beanie was offered a contract at Milwaukee the following year, but he didn’t report because more money could be made working and playing baseball in Maine.
In 1921, a team in Frederick, Md., convinced Beanie to play and he caught 92 consecutive games for that pennant winning team. The league included such future major leaguers as Dick Bartell, Hack Wilson and Johnny Nuen.
Rheumatic fever was one result of a taxing season and Beanie came home to Bath.
"I licked it by taking dry sulphur and cow's milk, he said.
But spring was beckoning again and he began to “loosen up’ at the local YMCA.
"Old Town called and offered me $125 for two games a week.
I could handle that,” he said.
But his young son was sick that season and Beanie missed a lot of practice.
He found rumors about his being dropped from the team were true. Meanwhile the Waterville team offered him $150 for two games a week and he accepted.
"Former top pitcher Johnny Miller, who had arm problems, came to me and said he’d recovered.
I grabbed a mitt and, sure enough, he had his stuff back.
l convinced the coach to make him part of the team also and Miller won his first two starts for us, Beanie remembered.
"One day while in a hotel in Old Town before a game, some gamblers were saying that we couldn't beat pitcher “Lefty” Durgin. Johnny and I bet our week's wages that we would win, Beanie said.
“We convinced the coach to let Johnny pitch.
I hit a grand slam home run and a bases-loaded triple, and Johnny pitched a one-hitter as we won 7-0 and collected our winnings.
A scout for the Giants was looking at Durgin and, instead, almost offered me a contract until he found I was too old at 23,° Beanie laughed.
Beanie said the Maine State League was great in those days. Many of the International League players had moved into Maine because of better money.
After coaching two years for the Milo team, Beanie came home to Bath.
In 1927 he took an offer for $75 a game to play an exhibition series in Quebec against Chappy Johnson's All-Stars.
“I hadn't touched a baseball in four years but I went. With mostly a high school team, we only lost both games by a run.
That was my last baseball game," Beanie said.
With a sparkle in his eyes, Beanie loves to talk baseball.
He uses terms such as a fly hawk, backstop and vacuum cleaner to describe positions on the field. The monkey suit was the uniform and a stick was the bat.
His favorite “all-round players’ are Ted Williams, Brooks Robinson and Marty Marion. ‘A player hitting under .250 shouldn't be in the big leagues, he said.
"We played for one run and let the pitcher hold it. Doctoring the ball was A "shine" and was done with paraffin rubbed on it from the pitcher's trousers, the emery ball was roughed up by a piece of emery paper in the pitcher's glove and the spitter was a favorite pitch, Beanie said.