Yount, Ducky

Primary Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Iredell County

First, Middle Names: Herbert Macon    Nicknames: Ducky, Hub
Date of Birth:  Dec. 7, 1885    Date and Place of Death: May 9, 1970, Winston-Salem
Burial: Eastview Cemetery, Newton, NC

High School: Newton High School, Newton, NC
College: Catawba College, Newton, NC

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-2, 178
Debut Year: 1914       Final Year: 1914          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Baltimore Terrapins, 1914

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
13        1          1          0          4.14     41.1     19        -0.7

Ducky Yount is the only North Carolinian who played exclusively in the renegade Federal League, a short-lived experiment that challenged the stranglehold that baseball owners had on players. Yount lasted about three months and then returned home to become one of the pioneering industrialists of Catawba County.

Herbert Macon Yount was born in 1885 near Lookout Shoals on the Catawba River in western Iredell County, where his father, Jacob, was one of the first doctors in the region. Dr. Yount moved his family to Newton in adjoining Catawba County in the late 1890s so that his four sons could attend his alma mater, Catawba College.[1]

One gets the impression that Yount may have been a handful. His father wrote the Asheville police department in 1898 asking it to look for 13-year-old Herbert and his friend, Coonie Ramsey, who disappeared from Newton and were believed to be in Asheville.[I] Ramsey showed up several days later and told the newspaper that he had “taken a jaunt to several surrounding towns,” getting as far as Spartanburg, S.C. There’s no mention of what may have happened to Yount.[II] He did return to Newton because we know that four years later he and another teenager pleaded guilty to assault and were fined $10.

Yount played baseball at Catawba College and as early as 1906 seems to have played for independent-league teams during the summers. He coached the Catawba team after graduating and continued to play for independent and minor-league teams after the college season, first in the Midwest, then in New England.

The Baltimore Terrapins signed him in 1914 for their first season in the Federal League. The league had started as a minor league but declared war on baseball in 1913 by actively recruiting players from the two established leagues by offering higher salaries and freedom from contracts restrictions that tied players to major-league teams for life.  Many made the switch.[2]

Assigned to a relief role, Yount pitched about 41 innings stretched over 13 games. His 4.14. earned-run average wasn’t terrible, but the Terrapins released him in mid-August.

The team and the league didn’t last much longer. The competition of another, better-paying league caused salaries in the two established leagues to skyrocket, demonstrating the bargaining potential of free agency for the first time. Faced with the threat, the moguls who owned major-league teams flexed their muscle and flashed their cash. After the 1915 season, they bought out half the teams in the Federal League and the owners of two other teams were allowed to buy struggling franchises in the established leagues.[3]

The Terrapins weren’t bought out by the owners. The team’s owners sued the major leagues for violating anti-trust laws. In a landmark case in 1922, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Major League Baseball was primarily entertainment, not conventional interstate commerce, and thus exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act. The reserve clause, under which players were little more than chattel, survived. That exemption remains, though it was significantly weakened during the 1970s and by the development of a strong players’ union.

As for Ducky, he joined his father in 1917 and founded Newton Glove Inc. with six sewing machines and 10 employees to make canvas working gloves. By the time of his death, the company had three plants in Catawba County and hundreds of employees.

Yount was also a town alderman and a pioneer banker. He was active with the Farmers Merchants Bank in Newton that was founded by his father and played an important role in its merger with Northwestern Bank. He later served on the Northwestern board. His only child, Robert, would retire as president of the board.

Yount died of a heart attack in 1970. The glove company was sold three years later.

[1] The Reformed Church of the United States had started the small college in Newton in 1851. The campus moved to Salisbury in 1925.
[2] Yount was one of the few Terrapin players who didn’t have major-league experience. Fellow North Carolinian George Suggs of Kinston led the pitching staff. He had been a 20-game winner for the Cincinnati Reds and would win 24 that year with the Terrapins. Another North Carolina native, outfielder Vern Duncan of Clayton, had played for the Philadelphia Phillies.
[3] Charles Weeghman, a Chicago restaurant tycoon, owned the city’s Federal franchise, the Whales. He was allowed to buy the city’s National League franchise, the Cubs. The Whales’ Weegham Park became the Cub’s new home. The park was renamed in 1927 after the team’s new owner, chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. Beloved Wrigley Field, then, stands as a monument to the failed Federal League experiment.

[I] “Around Town.” Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times. May 6, 1898.

[II] “Runaway Boys.” Statesville (NC) Record and Landmark, May 10, 1898.