Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Death and Tacks 

Death and Tacks - I've been doing some research lately on a little known player by the name of Tacks Latimer. His story is one of murder and redemption.

Tacks was a journeyman catcher a little over a century ago. Although his major league career was brief (27 games and 86 at bats spread over 5 different seasons) he played professional baseball for over a decade and a half. His playing career to him south to Montgomery, Alabama; north to Montreal, Quebec; and west to Denver, Colorado among many other stops. He even spent some time with the Norwich Connecticut entry of the Connecticut League.

After his playing days, Tacks took a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad police force. Had he lived happily ever after, I wouldn't have much of a tale to write. However, he wound up getting into some sort of feud with his superior; one Lieutenant Charles Mackrodt. Accounts differ over what the dispute was about. Allegedly Latimer and Mackrodt agreed to a duel on November 26th, 1924 while they were near the courthouse in Xenia, Ohio. Mackrodt backed out but Latimer shot him anyways. Latimer was sentenced to life imprisonment a few weeks later even though he pleaded self-defense, "testifying that Mackrodt had many times threatened to kill him."

Latimer's new home was the Ohio Penitentiary. His record in prison must have been good because he was made a trusty less than two years after imprisonment. On November 8th, 1926, there was a big prison break which is described towards the bottom of this page. This was Latimer's chance to shine. The warden, a man named Thomas, had a residence within the prison walls. According to the November 10 Los Angeles Times, "Miss Amanda Thomas, daughter of Warden Thomas....heard the sound of shooting and started downstairs. Lattimer (sic) endeavored to persuade her to stay upstairs in safety. When she refused, he placed himself in front of her, it was said, to shield her from the convicts. It was said that he was in line for a pardon by governor Vic Donahey. It would take four years, but Tacks was finally pardoned by Donahey's successor Myers Cooper.

I think it's an interesting story and I'd like to investigate it more and write something publishable. Fortunately, I have been in contact with a relative of on of Latimer's descendants. Also digitized newspaper archives such as Paper of Record and ProQuest have been a lifesaver so far. I'd like to thank Dick Thompson for bringing this story to light in the 1996 edition of The National Pastime.

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