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'Wagon-Tongue' Adams led Vandalia team

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By Linda Hanabarger

In 1981, in celebration of its 100th anniversary, The Ramsey News-Journal newspaper ran a series of old photos submitted by their readers.


One of these was of Vandalia’s championship 1903 baseball team. It was said, “the team had some of the best talent in the state, winning 24 out of the 31 games they played in the 1903 season.”
Joe Adams, the team’s pitcher, was a Ramsey boy who earned the name “Wagon-Tongue” Adams because of the extra long bat he swung with such success. He was a top hitter as well as a top pitcher.
Joe’s son, the late Leo Adams, told The News-Journal that it was because of Walter Whittington, Herrick’s mayor, that Joe got the chance to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
It happened this way. Whittington was a streetcar conductor in St. Louis on the line the Cardinals used to get to the ball park. He talked Joe up over and over again, telling the men of his ability.
The Cardinals had been losing up to this time and invited Joe down for a tryout. He made an auspicious showing, striking out every batter on the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
He was invited to suit up for the next major league game, and he pitched his team to a 1-0 shutout victory.
The next year, 1902, Adams won 20 games for the Cardinals and had a .450 batting average.
The outlaw, Frank James, brother to Jesse, was a Cardinal fan and was so impressed with Joe that he gave him a new pair of patent leather shoes after Joe hit a home run.
“The following season Joe won the first game of a double header.  He started the second contest but midway through it the muscles in his shoulder were torn.  His arm was never the same.”
News articles from The Ramsey News- Journal tell us that Joe did pitch again in local games, with his name appearing in lineups for several years.