Former big league pitcher in exclusive club

The Koenigsmark family, from left front row, are, Minnie, Jacob, Dorothea, Alyda and Amanda.
Back row: Alois, Conrad, Morris, Robert and Willis. Willis later pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals
in 1919.

By Mark Hodapp

Perhaps one of the rarest

feats has been accomplished by

only a handful of pitchers in

Major League Baseball. Former

Waterloo, Ill. native, the late Willis

Koenigsmark, was one of them.

Their ERAs are INF, also

known as “infinity.”

Koenigsmark is one of 13

big league pitchers who each

appeared in only one Major

League game in his career, gave

up at least one run but never

recorded an out, according to

David Smith at Project Retrosheet.

Surely it must have been

frustrating for Koenigsmark to

have earned a big league cup of

coffee, but never to have

achieved what every pitcher desires

most — an out.

Koenigsmark’s debut

On Sept. 10, 1919, St. Louis

Cardinals manager Branch

Rickey brought in right-hander

Koenigsmark to pitch against

the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Koenigsmark faced only

three Dodgers batters without

recording an out in his first and

only big league game.

Two of the batters scored,

giving Koenigsmark the dreaded


Koenigsmark never pitched

in another big league game after


He later made his living selling

seed corn in Waterloo, Ill., recalled

his niece Jean Stogner,

who still lives in Waterloo.

A World War I veteran, Koenigsmark

died July 1, 1972.

He was buried at Waterloo

City Cemetery.

Local baseball historian Rich

Fisher recalled meeting Koenigsmark

a couple weeks after

Fisher was discharged from the

service in 1967. He remembers

Koenigsmark asking him if

he’d be interested in starting

another baseball team in Waterloo

to compete in the Mon-Clair


“He didn’t care how good or

bad of a team it was,” Fisher

said. “He just wanted to have

another team to compete against

another guy in town.”

That other guy was Waterloo

Millers manager Vern Moehrs.

Fisher told Koenigsmark

he’d need a couple of days to

think about it.

But he said he never heard

from Koenigsmark again.

Koenigsmark’s legacy

The Koenigsmark family has

a deep heritage and legacy in


Willis was the grandson of

Thomas Koenigsmark, who

died Jan. 14, 1911, in Waterloo.

Thomas Koenigsmark for more

than a quarter of a century devoted

his energies to advancing

the interests of Waterloo.

A self-made man, Thomas

Koenigsmark came to the United

States as a poor immigrant

boy, without money or friends.

In time, he became a power

in the commercial world and

the organizer and promoter of

vast industries which made Waterloo

an important milling center.

Thomas Koenigsmark was

born at Merklin, Bohemia, and

as a youth heard of the wonderful

fortunes to be made in the


When he was 13 years old,

he succeeded in accumulating

enough money to pay his passage

to New Orleans.

Thomas Koenigsmark made

the journey alone and arrived in

that city when it was in the grip

of a yellow fever epidemic.

“My mother (Alyda Koenigsmark)

said he came to the

United States with 50 cents in

his pocket and a violin,” Stogner


In 1855, Thomas Koenigsmark

moved to St. Louis, but

subsequently settled at Columbia,Ill.,

where he was first employed

as a clerk in Beaird’s


Later, Thomas Koenigsmark

followed the trade of tailor for a

short time, and worked in the

brick business for another short

period, owning a yard where the

Columbia, Ill. depot once stood prior

to the building of the Mobile

and Ohio Railroad.

In 1863, Thomas Koenigsmark

entered the mercantile

field as the proprietor of a store,

and successfully conducted it

until he purchased Gardner Mill

in Columbia. When the Chouteau

and Edwards Mill, in Waterloo,

was completely destroyed

by fire in 1884, the citizens

of this city asked him to

build a new mill, and this he did

in 1886, erecting the Koenigsmark


Thomas Koenigsmark was

progressive in all things, and

was a firm believer in using the

most modern machinery and


During the 36 years that he

was engaged in milling, he saw

many changes in milling methods,

and was ever abreast of the


While Thomas Koenigsmark’s

business career kept his

time well occupied, he found

leisure to enjoy those pleasures

that made his home life beautiful.

He was a great lover of music, the violin being his favorite

instrument, and in his younger

days showed considerable talent

as a performer.

Successful himself, Thomas

Koenigsmark enjoyed the success

of others, and was ever

ready to lend a helping hand to

those in need of assistance.

Thomas Koenigsmark retired

in 1899 and moved to St.

Louis, where he later died.

When Thomas Koenigsmark

retired, he signed over the mills

to his sons, John and Jacob


Willis was the youngest of

Jacob and Dorothea Koenigsmark’s

eight children. The other

children were Minnie, Alyda,

Amanda, Alois Conrad, Morris

and Robert.

John Koenigsmark was the

grandfather of Virginia Sweet,

who still lives in Waterloo.

It’s not known how Willis

got his start in baseball.

“But I have been told he was

the athlete in his family,” Stogner


It’s also not known what

happened to Thomas Koenigsmark’s

violin after it was sold in

a family auction in 1989.

But Stogner was able to find

and acquire the violin’s case

several years ago.



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