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David Zearfoss

Class of 1895

David was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. His citation is below:

Washington College students began playing baseball along with counterparts at Harvard, Yale and Princeton well before the American Civil War. In 1865 the Wissahickons of Washington College engaged the Ozenies of Chestertown in a titantic struggle on the front campus that lasted ten minutes short of five hours, the Wissahickons crushing the townies, 97-15.

“In days gone by, in the memory of the Perkins’, Pearces’, Smiths’, Uries’, Vickers’, Barrolls’, and many others who might be mentioned, there could be many a tale told of the prowess of a Hopkins, a Catlin, a Mace, a Todd – men whose glory is still sung at many a gathering, even of the modern athletic crank,” so stated the 1895 The Alpha, the first college yearbook.

That sterling 9-4 season was the final of four campaigns for David W. T. Zearfoss, captain and catcher extraordinarÈ. After a 9-3 win over the Peabodys, The Enterprise wrote: “Well it goes without saying, he (Zearfoss) played his same errorless, matchless games and more firmly established his already magnetic hold upon the esteem of all lovers of baseball. We heard one enthusiast remark that it was worth a dollar just to see him throw to second base.”

It was an era that saw the team leave for a game with Johns Hopkins by stage coach, take a steamboat to Baltimore from Buck Neck Landing and stay at the New Mansion House at 14 North Gay Street. The next day, behind four spanking gray horses, they took a stage to Clifton Park where they edged Hopkins, 7-6.

Baseball was so popular that at the end of the 1895 season Coach Alvah B. Burris received a medal from Mrs. R. D. Hynson and $5 from James A. Pearce, Esq. David Zearfoss received a purse of gold from “the baseball loving citizens of the town,” according to The Enterprise.

Zearfoss drew the attention of major league scouts and was signed to a contract. He caught 16 games for New York in the National League in 1896, five in 1897 and one in 1898. He played minor league baseball, 1899-1903, then signed with St. Louis in the National League in 1904. There he played for Kid Nichols and with Homer Smoot, a Washington College Hall of Fame member. He played one more season, 1905, closing with 66 games in the big time.

In the alumni game that year the teams played what “turned out to be one of the most exciting, if not the greatest game of baseball that was ever played at Washington College,” according to The Enterprise. The College won in eleven innings. “Zearfoss, the old WC catcher, at present with the Dover club, was behind the bat for the alumni, and was the backbone of his team, and caught an almost perfect game.”

As David Zearfoss’s flawless defensive skills behind the plate diminished, he turned to coaching and managing baseball teams in Dover and Wilmington. He lived in Delaware his remaining days, always interested in the game. He died in Wilmington on September 12, 1945. He was 77.

Washington College is proud to induct in 1997 one of its first students to bridge the gap between college baseball and the major leagues – David William Tilden Zearfoss.