CARLTON MOLESWORTH SR. by CM III – 5/6/2009
Carlton Molesworth was a baseball man, spending 52 years as a professional player, manager and scout.
He was born on Feb. 15, 1876, in Frederick, MD, the second son of Thomas E. and Drusilla Molesworth. His parents were tenant farmers who worked and lived on land belonging to the local Orphans Court, located just beyond the Maryland School for the Deaf on South Market Street.
According to family lore, Carlton quit school in the third grade after learning to read and write so he could work on the farm. He was drawn to the new sport of baseball, however, and in 1892 he joined a team fielded by the School for the Deaf. To stay in shape in the off-season, he served as a fireman on a team of men who towed a steam pumper on foot from the fire house to the blaze.
“I had been playing amateur ball around Frederick and had never participated in a league game,” he told the Frederick News-Post in 1915 for a story on the 20th anniversary of his start in pro baseball. “Winning thirty-two straight games however, had caused widespread attention, and I was ordered to report to Washington for a trial.”
“Moley,” as he was known, pitched a scant two weeks for the Washington Senators at the end of the 1895 season, his only stint playing in the Major Leagues. His stats were unimpressive in his four games on the mound. That winter he fell while ice skating and injured his pitching shoulder, changing the course of his career. Unable to continue pitching, he spent the next six seasons playing the outfield for various minor league teams in the Northeast.
With 1902 came a move to Montgomery, AL, and the Southern Association, where his career blossomed. He led the league in hitting in 1905 and led many other offensive categories as well over the years. Traded to the Birmingham (AL) Barons in 1907, he took on additional duties the following year as team manager in addition to playing center field. He also had a hand in the design of Birmingham’s Rickwood Stadium, which opened in 1912 and is now the oldest surviving professional baseball park in the nation.
Molesworth led the Barons to Southern Association championships in 1912 and 1914, then hung up his glove after the 1915 season at the age of 39. He continued to manage the Barons through 1922, taking time off during World War I to serve in the YMCA as a physical fitness instructor for soldiers headed overseas. By some accounts, this service cost him the chance to manage in the Majors.
After serving as manager of the Columbus (OH) Senators in the International League 1923-25, Molesworth went to work as a full-time scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Considered a shrewd judge of baseball talent, he signed many players who went on to successful careers in the majors, including Hall-of-Famers Harold “Pie” Traynor and the Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd. He retired from baseball in 1947.
Molesworth was married three times. He had three daughters in the course of his first two marriages, though his first two wives died. He then married Sarah Phleeger, one of Frederick County’s first telephone operators, in about 1914. They had two sons, Carlton Jr. born in 1918 and Thomas E. born in 1922.
While living in Birmingham, the Molesworths spotted a house they admired and made plans to build a home similar to it in Frederick. They bought a five-acre parcel on the western edge of town and constructed their dream home in 1925. The land ran from 515 to 521 Wilson Place and extended westward to what is now the fence at Fort Detrick. The smoke house, chicken coops, a dog pen and a small cherry orchard were located behind the house, which was primarily red brick on the outside but with a band of yellow bricks around the middle of it (it’s painted gray now).
Sarah Phleeger Molesworth died of diabetes in 1938, so none of her grandchildren knew her. After World War II, Carlton subdivided his farm and sold it off in building lots. He gave the lots at 515 and 517 Wilson Place to his sons, and by 1949 both sons had built houses on them.
Carlton spent his last few years in a nursing home outside Frederick. He died on July 25, 1961.