Will And James “Deacon” White

Will And James “Deacon” White

James and Will White, two emerging baseball stars in the sport’s early days, were born in Caton, NY, just a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. 

In 1870, just the second year of “professional” baseball, James “Deacon” White began his playing career. He was known as one of the best defensive catchers in the barehanded era of the game and played for Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, and Cincinnati. He caught more games than any other player during the 1870s, and from 1873 to 1877 he was on five championship teams – three in the National Association (NA), and two in the National League (NL), which was formed as the first fully recognized major league in 1876.

White brought his talents to the Queen City when he signed with the National League Buffalo Bisons in 1881 as a 33-year-old first baseman. As a member of the Bisons from 1881-1885 he was one of Buffalo’s “Big Four” with Dan Brouthers, Hardy Richardson & Jack Rowe. In 463 games with the NL Bisons, he hit .301 in 1994 plate appearances.

James “Deacon” White was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013; voted in by the Veteran’s Committee.

Deacon White’s younger brother, Will, was also a star in the early days of professional baseball, as well. Although he was the first major league baseball player to wear eyeglasses, people could clearly see it was his pitching stamina and ability that set him apart from his peers.  

In 1878 with the Cincinnati Reds he pitched 52 games – all complete games – and finished the season with 30 wins and a 1.79 ERA. The following season he completed all 75 games he started, pitching 680 innings. That season he finished 43-31 with a 1.99 ERA. His starts, complete games, and innings pitched are still major league records. For the 1882 American Association Cincinnati Red Stockings, he was the league’s best pitcher going 40-23 with an ERA of 1.54. He led the league in wins, complete games, shutouts, and innings pitched. Defensively he also set a major league record for pitchers with 223 assists.

Like his brother, he also joined the Buffalo Bisons of the Players League in 1890. He remained in Buffalo after retirement and founded, and partnered with his brother James, Buffalo Optical Company, which is still in operation today. He was also the founder and chief benefactor of the Christ Mission in Buffalo providing food and shelter to the poor.