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CONLEY, JAMES MICHAEL PATRICK [SNIPE]

CONLEY, JAMES MICHAEL PATRICK [SNIPE] (1892–1978). James M. P. (Snipe) Conley, baseball pitcher, was born on April 25, 1892, to Michael and Rose Daily Conley in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. He left school at age twelve to help his family by working for the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad. Two years later he moved to another town to work in a shoe factory. For entertainment he started playing baseball, developed as a pitcher, and eventually joined the company team. Soon he was playing semi-pro ball at night and working during the day. Conley signed with the original Bloomer Girl's baseball team and while on tour was hired by the Baltimore Orioles. John "Jack Quinn" Picus, an Oriole pitcher, taught Conley to throw the spitball. "Snipe hunting" was a popular prank at the time, and Baltimore veterans used it to initiate rookies. Conley was taken on a hunt, dutifully held the bag, and thereafter was known as "Snipe." In 1914–15 he played for the Baltimore Federals. While in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, for an off-season game, he agreed to pitch for the Dallas Submarines. With the variously named Texas League Dallas team he became a famed spitball thrower. Between 1916 and 1927 he led the club to three championships, the first in 1917, when he won twenty-seven games, including nineteen consecutively. In 1955 his games-won record of 211 was tied, but his consecutive victories remained intact for the first century of Texas League baseball (1888–1987). In 1918 Conley played briefly with the National League's Cincinnati team, but returned to Dallas in time to help Dallas earn its second pennant. In 1926 he managed the team to its third. In 1927 he was hired as manager of the Jackson, Mississippi, team in the Cotton States League. In 1928 he managed the Midland semi-pro club and later the same year went to work for the Big Lake Oil Company and became playing manager of its team, the Texon Oilers. During the World War II inactivity in semi-professional baseball, Conley continued his interest in the game by coaching amateur and youth teams. He retired from the Big Lake Oil Company in 1957 to Robert Lee, moved to Arizona, and eventually returned to Robert Lee. He was an excellent all-around player known for his down-to-earth attitude, loyalty, and good sportsmanship. Always a popular player with Dallas fans, he returned in 1941 to pitch two games with the Dallas Rebels. Under Texas League rules he could still use his spitball pitch; 3,000 fans saw him win on Snipe Conley Day, July 27. In 1973 Conley was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He was Catholic. He married Rosebud Stuart of Dallas in 1917. To this union two sons were born. In 1943 Conley married Mary Lee Reese. He died on January 5, 1978, in Robert Lee and is buried in Wheatland Cemetery, Dallas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Morning News, September 2, 1923. Bill O'Neal, The Texas League, 1888–1987: A Century of Baseball (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Joseph L. Reichler, ed., The Baseball Encyclopedia, 6th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1985). San Angelo Standard Times, July 28, 1941, May 11, 1969.

Jane Spraggins Wilson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Jane Spraggins Wilson, "CONLEY, JAMES MICHAEL PATRICK [SNIPE]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcoxn), accessed September 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.