The story of John Hardy Goetz, or, more reasons to suspect human memory…

As a lover of baseball history who has a mild obsession with obituaries, I regularly check the Obituaries Newsbeat on the Baseball Think Factory web site.  Yesterday I found an item on the death of John Hardy Goetz, known as John or Johnny, whose major league career consisted of four games with the Cubs in 1960.  You’ll see the BBTF post was prompted by a story from the newspaper in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, across the bridge from where John went to high school in Michigan.  The story, written by a high school teammate of Goetz, was just begging to be fact-checked, and you’ll note in the comments I found a lot of the facts just didn’t check.  I didn’t have a lot of time to put into this, and while I’d love to know more about Goetz’s story, I think the main lesson is a reminder of how unreliable memory and oral history can be…I’m sure Tom Keenan would swear on his life that he has the facts of his old friend’s career down cold.  For that matter, you’d think the Upper Michigan Sports Hall of Fame would be a definitive source of information on Goetz’s career…but a quick check leads me to believe they got some things wrong too.  Which leads me to wonder how many other mistakes are in both sources that I couldn’t quickly check.

I wonder how many former major leaguers in addition to Johnny Goetz were born in a town that was named after a member of their family?  Seems Bill James wrote a little item along these lines years ago, but I think it had to do with players whose names were the same as their hometown without specifying if the town was named after someone in their family…

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7 thoughts on “The story of John Hardy Goetz, or, more reasons to suspect human memory…

  1. john thomas goetz

    Angus Goetz is another member of the Goetz Family born in the Goetzville , Detour Michigan area who was a professional athlete albeit a Professional football player for the Buffalo All-Americans in the 1920’s. Angus was a star player for the Michigan Wolverines, a member of their 1918 national championship team, a four year starter, and captain of the team in 1919 and 1920. Angus also was the first player to wear the famed number 1 jersey at U-M. Angus also graduated from University of Michigan Medical School and founded the Orthopedic surgery section of Detroit Receiving Hospital.

    Reply
  2. Andrea Kullman

    Hi – I think this is my cousin – John Hardy Goetz – pretty sure in fact – my aunt Alma – John’s mom – and my mom’s sister – John Hardy became an attorney I think – worked in the attorney general’s office?? same guy?

    Reply
    1. Erich Goetz

      Yes it is the same guy. Alma was his mother and my grandmother. He was a lawyer and practiced law in the Detroit area.
      John Erich Goetz

      Reply
      1. Andrea Kullman

        So Alma was my Aunt. I am her sister Mae’s daughter. So I guess that makes us second cousins. I was just looking Hardy up again as I will be in Chicago next week on my way to a nephew’s wedding. Pretty amazing to make it that far in pro sports – you should be very proud. I don’t remember Hardy I probably met him when I was a kid but I do know that my dad still remembers watching him play baseball against the SF Giants in San Francisco many years ago.

      2. Erich Goetz

        Good to hear from you. Your mom was one of the few members of the family to leave the UP. I don’t recall if I met Mae. Feel free to contact me at egoetzlaw@gmail.com. I would love to hear more family history

  3. Erich Goetz

    John Hardy Goetz was born in Goetzville Michigan and the town was founded and named after the family. My father’s claim to fame was striking out Willie Mays which is supported by his box scores from 1960. Judge Mark Plawecki (20th District Court in Dearborn Heights), a self proclaimed baseball expert and author of a baseball book, was good enough to locate box scores of my father’s career and present them to me.

    Reply

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