Thomas Iverson “Tom” Poorman

The Poorman Family Memorial, Highland Cemetery, Lock Havem

I was in Highland Cemetery to visit the graves of the baseball players buried here. Accompanied by Mike, a good friend and fellow explorer, we set out to conquer the hill known as Highland Cemetery and pay our respects to those who had this as their final resting place.

We finished paying our respects to John Shaffer and made our way back toward the main set of steps into this section of the cemetery. While I knew the man we were now searching for rested in an unmarked grave, I had been informed that he was buried in the family plot. I had noticed the family name on a small obelisk when we walked over to Shaffer’s grave, and our second stop was at the Poorman family plot. Note: more about John Shaffer can be found here: John Shaffer.

“Did you see this?” Mike asked as I walked over. He had conquered the hillside much faster than I and was busy reading the Poorman family stone. Wandering over to where Mike stood, I read the information on the side of the stone: “James A. Poorman / Member of / Co. E. PA. Vol. / Killed at the Battle of / Fair Oaks / May 31, 1862 / 18 Years. 5 Mo. 2 Days.” Above his name was the engraving of an American flag.

“You sure he’s buried here?” Mike asked as he walked around the stone. “I’m not seeing his name on the stone.”

“Yeah, but his grave isn’t marked,” I replied. “When I talked to Dave the other week, he said Tom’s buried in Highland Cemetery in an unmarked grave. While we’re not sure one hundred percent, it would make sense he rests in the family plot.”

“Well, that stinks,” Mike spoke. “So who is he that you’re interested in him?”

Thomas Iverson Poorman was one of ten children born to Thomas Nelson and Lucinda Poorman. Thomas and Lucinda arrived in Lock Haven when there were only a handful of houses and watched as it grew up around them. Their son, James, would answer the call and fight for the Union in the American Civil War and was killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks.

In 1880, Tom Poorman would make his first appearance in the Major Leagues. Poorman – who threw right-handed, but batted left-handed – played right field and also pitched. On May 5, 1880, he appeared with the Buffalo Bisons, appearing in nineteen games before going to the Chicago White Stockings for seven games. In the twenty-six games he played outfield, Poorman had sixteen hits, eight runs, two doubles, two triples and fifteen stolen bases. In the same year he made nine pitching appearances with Buffalo and two with Chicago with three wins and eight loses. As a pitcher, Poorman allowed 129 hits with only thirteen strikeouts. Despite having a losing records when it came to the games he pitched in, Poorman was praised in many newspapers for his usage of a new type of pitch – the curveball.

Note: It is recorded on a number of sites that Poorman was a member of the New York Metropolitans for the 1881 season, but I have not been able to locate any information about him playing that year. None of the baseball statistic sites have any stats for him that season. This could be either due to 1) he actually did not play or 2) those statistics have been lost over the years.

In 1882, Poorman was sent to the Minor League system, where he played for two seasons before returning to the Major Leagues again in the 1884 season. This appearance in the Major Leagues as a member of the Toledo Blue Stockings, he appeared in ninety-three games as an outfielder and made one pitching appearance for a loss. In the 1884 and 1885 seasons, he was a member of the Boston Beaneaters appearing in 144 games, had 151 hits, twenty-one doubles and nine triples.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics for the 1887 season. That year he appeared in 135 games with one hundred and fifty-five hits, and eighty-eight stolen bases. That same season, Poorman was one of six players leading the American Association with nineteen triples. Along with Poorman, the other leaders in triples were: Thomas “Oyster” Burns, James “Jumbo” Davis, John “Jack” Kerins, John “Bid” McPhee, and James “Tip” O’Neill.

The following year would be his last appearance in the Major Leagues as a member of the Philadelphia Athletics on September 18, 1888. Over six seasons, Poorman had 498 hits, sixty-five doubles, forty-three triples, and 165 stolen bases.

Note: His total in stolen bases is higher than the one hundred and sixty-five listed, due to there being no records of his stolen bases until the 1886 season, so all stolen bases pre-1886 are not included in his total. Also, while researching Poorman’s professional career, there is an error that I’ve spotted in a number of places – it has been stated in a number of places Poorman lead the American Association in stolen bases during the 1887 season. Unfortunately, he did not and was tied in eighth place overall in the league’s stolen bases. What I think these mentions meant to say was Poorman lead the Philadelphia Athletics that year in stolen bases, not the league.

Poorman continued in the Minors through 1891, and made another appearance in the minor leagues in 1897 with Lock Haven and Shamokin of the Central Pennsylvania League. Note: if he played professional baseball between 1891 and 1897, I could find no records.

Poorman always called Lock Haven his home and upon leaving professional baseball worked as a merchant in a dry goods store.

Poorman would pass in Lock Haven on February 18, 1905 at the home of his sister, Margaret. His death notice states he had been suffering from pulmonary troubles for a period of time and it was announced as the cause of his death. He was just forty-seven years old and left behind a wife. Poorman was buried in Highland Cemetery, in an unmarked grave in the family plot.

“It seems strange that his grave was never marked,” Mike spoke, reflecting my own thoughts. “After all, he led the American Association in triples and his team in stolen bases for the 1887 season.”

“It is,” I replied. “Maybe the family didn’t have the finances to give him a marker at the time. You have to remember that baseball wasn’t the multi-million-dollar sport back then. Many players had another job they worked when they weren’t playing.”

“That’s true,” Mike agreed. “At least he’s not forgotten.”

“No,” I replied solemnly. “He has not been forgotten.” With those words, we finished paying our respects to Tom Poorman and continued our journey to the top of Highland Cemetery.

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