One of this summer’s genealogy highlights for me was discovering that in 1913, my great-great-granduncle (brother of my great-great-grandfather) Adolph “Ade” Frank Thoss was a professional baseball player for a local team, the Covington (Ky.) Blue Sox.
I have to be honest—I’d never heard of the Blue Sox. But I probably should have. There’s even a mural honoring the team on the city’s Ohio riverfront.
The Sox were part of baseball’s Federal League, an “outlaw” league started in 1913 (no “legal” leagues were allowed to establish a team so close to the Cincinnati Reds, right across the river).
The Federal League played its first season starting in May, 1913. Ade Thoss, who’d played in 1909 and 1910 in the Bluegrass minor league for the Richmond (Ky) Pioneers, was the only local boy on the Sox. Covington quickly built a new ballpark (the tiniest professional ballpark ever built) and threw a parade before the home opener, May 9, when Ade started in right field.
I’d come across the name Thoss (no first name) several times among baseball scores while searching local newspapers, and I had a feeling this had to be a relative. I didn’t investigated further, as I was always searching for some other Thoss. But I finally started putting it together when I came across an article in a Richmond, Ky., newspaper mentioning “Mrs. Ad. Thoss, of Covington” sick at the home of her father, “Mr. S. Q. Royce.”
I turned my attention to the Adolph Thoss and Jane Royce on my tree, and Ade’s BaseballReference.com page came up when I ran a Google search. The birth and death dates there matched my tree, helping to confirm it was the right Adolph.
And I know genealogists don’t accept physical resemblance in a proof argument, but in this baseball card of Ade when he was on the Blue Grass League’s Richmond (Ky.) Pioneers in 1909, he totally looks like my Thoss relatives:
Researching the Covington Blue Sox, I learned there just happened to be a local filmmaker doing a documentary about the team and it would premiere at the library in a few weeks. My mom (Ade’s great-grandniece) and I went to see the film, “Our True Blues: The Story of the Covington Blue Sox” (you can watch it on YouTube), for our birthdays, and it was the coolest thing to see our relative called out for hitting a single to drive in the first run on opening day.
But it turned out that Covington couldn’t support a professional baseball team. A string of rainouts worked against them, too. Less than two months after opening day, the Sox moved to Kansas City and became the Packers. Ade Thoss seems to have stayed behind. The next time I find him playing ball is in 1922, when the Blue Grass League’s Winchester Dodgers brought back some old-timers.
The Federal League didn’t survive beyond 1915, when owners from the other leagues bought out half of its owners.
Ade’s part in this area’s sports history is a fun chapter to add to my family tree. Did your ancestors play baseball, football, basketball or another sport? The October 2006 Family Tree Magazine has a guide to resources and records that can help you trace athletic ancestors, whether professional, semipro, in school or recreational.