Born: March 16, 1854
Died: February 20, 1914
William Aloysius Purcell was born March 16, 1854 in Paterson. Of average height and built, William was most noticeable for his great speed and his shock of golden hair, which earned him the nickname Blondie. Like many athletic teenagers in the 1860s and 1870s, Blondie was equally adept at the English sport of cricket and the game of baseball, which exploded in popularity after the Civil War. Blondie was not a slugger, but he had a talent for spraying balls through holes in the infield and he was a versatile defender.
Blondie pitched and played the field for amateur and semipro teams in the early days of professionalism in baseball. In 1877, he was a teammate of Hardy Richardson’s on a team in Binghampton, and played with teenagers Monte Ward, Jack Glasscock and Larry Corcoran—three of the game’s biggest stars of the 1880s. The following year he played for a team in Utica that featured Richardson and Doc Bushong, one of the great catchers of the day.
In 1879, several Utica players including Blondie joined the Syracuse Stars of the National League. Blindie finished the year with Cincinnati Reds, playing with all-time greats King Kelly, Ross Barnes, Will white and Deacon White. Blonide bounced around the NL in the ensuing seasons, playing primarily in the outfield (and occasionally pitching) for the Reds, Cleveland Blues and Buffalo Bisons.
In 1883, Blondie was the third baseman and leadoff hitter for the NL’s new Philadelphia club, the Quakers (now the Phillies). In the first inning of the opening game, he became the first player in team history to get a hit and score a run. The Quakers were the worst team in baseball. A few weeks into the season, Blondie was elevated to the status of player-manager, but the team went 13–68 under his direction. On the bright, side, he led the team in hits and runs.
Blondie jumped to the American Association in 1885, and finished his career with the AA Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Athletics. In 1887, as team captain of the Orioles, he was credited with 88 stolen bases and 96 RBIs, finishing second on the club in both categories. In 1889, he was the oldest player in the league, yet finished in the Top 10 in batting average (.316). The Association was absorbed into the NL in 1891, but Blondie was not, despite scoring a career-high 110 runs in 1890. His playing career was over at age 36.
Blondie retired with 1,217 hits and 767 runs. He did a little coaching and managing in the years that followed, drifting in and out of baseball. His date of death is unknown, although a grave in Philadelphia’s Greenmount Cemetery says February 20, 1912. The only problem is that Blondie was managing the Jersey City Skeeters in 1913!