I could see the dark skies upriver and knew rain was on its way. So far, I had managed to avoid the rain, but I knew I could only stay ahead of the approaching storm for so long. I was hoping it stayed away long enough for me to make a stop at Saint Joseph’s Cemetery at Drury Run while I was in the area.
Located west of Renovo, near the junction of Routes 144 and 120, the old cemetery rests on a hillside overlooking the Susquehanna’s West Branch. This was not the first time I had visited the cemetery, having stopped to pay my respects to Louise Carroll, who rests in an unmarked grave in the Carroll family plot. I was returning on this trip to pay my respects of a professional baseball player who rests on this sacred piece of land. Note: The sad story of Louise Carroll can be found here: Louise Carroll and also here: Louise Carroll: Updated.
As I drove up the roadway leading to the cemetery, I could see in the distance the wall of water coming down the valley and I hoped Lou’s directions were correct, otherwise I was about to get wet. When I discovered there was a professional baseball player buried near Renovo, I knew I would have to make the trip to find the grave and pay my respects. I found the cemetery he was buried at, but no location where to begin my search. Not having that information, I knew Lou was the person to go to help find the grave. He quickly answered my question, sending me the location of the Roach family plot, but added: “I don’t have a Mike or Michael Roach listed. I do have a M.S. listed being buried there. I hope this is the person you’re looking for..”
I mentioned to my parents – who had accompanied me on this rainy day – that Lou said the Roach family plot was next to the roadway into the cemetery. As soon as we cleared the woods, they both announced they could see the Roach family stone. It was just a couple of yards from the concrete stairs that allowed easier access to that section of the cemetery.
I turned the vehicle around and stopped next to the concrete of steps. In mere seconds I climbed the steps and walked the handful of steps to the Roach family plot. The family memorial had been damaged at some point and the large angel, which once stood on top of the stone, now rested against it. The names William and Bridget, Mike’s parents, were etched into the stone, so I knew this was definitely the correct family plot. Scanning the smaller stones in the family plot, I quickly located the simple marker that read: “M. S. Roach / Nov. 12, 1916.”
Nothing on the simple stone, nor on the family stone, would have hinted that the man buried here had once been a professional baseball player, who made an appearance with the Washington Senators. Beneath this simple stone rests baseball player Michael Stephen “Mike” Roach.
Roach was born December 23, 1869 in Driftwood, Pennsylvania, the fourth of five sons to William and Bridget Roach. Note: Mike was not the only one of the Roach brothers to play professional baseball. His brother John, who was born in North Bend, also played in the minor leagues as a pitcher. John would make one professional appearance in the major leagues with the New York Giants on May 14, 1887, pitching a complete game, earning a loss and having an 11.25 ERA. The Giants would release him on July 15 of the same year.
At the age of twenty-three, Roach made his first appearance in professional baseball in 1892, playing for Macon in the Southern League and later that season for the Reading (PA) Actives. He would not play for the 1893 and 1894 seasons, for reasons unclear. Note: Everything I could find states Roach sat out those two years, which makes me believe that it was his choice to sit out those two years, but nothing I could uncover gives a reason for his absence from baseball for those two years.
Roach returned to professional baseball in 1895, playing catcher for the Toledo Mud Hens. By the summer of 1899 he was playing for the Newark Colts and had caught the attention of the Washington Senators. On August 10, 1899, Roach made his professional debut. Washington was hosting the Chicago Orphans and Mike went two for four in the 5-4 loss. He would play a mere twenty-four games with them, making his final appearance on September 12 when Washington hosted the New York Giants in a double-header. In the second game, Roach had an unsuccessful bat in the ninth inning as a pinch hitter and the Senators lost 5-4.
Of the twenty-four games with the Senators, Mike appeared in twenty games as the catcher, three as first baseman and once as a pinch hitter. He ended his major league days with seventy-eight plate appearances resulting in seventeen hits, seven runs, seven RBIs, and three stolen bases.
After his appearance with the Washington Senators, Roach returned to the minor league system and bounced around the country, playing for baseball clubs in Syracuse, Los Angeles and Columbus. In 1904 he found himself playing in the New York League where he would spend the remainder of his baseball career. For the next four years he played for the Ilion Typewriters, the Wilkes-Narre Barons and the Binghamton Bingoes. Roach ended his minor league career with 3675 plate appearances, 883 hits, 311 runs and 71 stolen bases. Note: Despite having a career that spanned fourteen seasons, it was never recorded if Mike batted and threw right or left handed.
Although Mike’s playing days were over, his involvement in professional baseball was not. Roach would become a part owner of one of the clubs he had been playing for – the Binghamton Bingoes. In addition to being a partial owner of the team, Roach also operated two hotels in Binghamton.
In 1912, Roach married Rose Manalis and they had two children, Louis and Rosemary. Their marriage was short-lived as Mike passed on November 12, 1916 at the home of his brother, Charles, in Manhattan. His brother, a doctor, was treating Mike for kidney disease at the time of his death. Mike’s body was returned to Renovo and buried in the family plot at Saint Joseph’s Cemetery.
I finished paying my respects to the local boy who made his career as a professional baseball player as the rain arrived. Large, cold drops fell around me as I left Mike resting in the family plot overlooking the valley he called home.