Click this ad to view our online art store.
“Des Moines Danny”
In the spring of 1918 the Senators were impressed, very impressed by a young speed merchant from Des Moines named Danny June Cass, although he was also referred to as June Cass, Danny Cass and is listed in Baseball Reference as DJ Cass.
Cass was 23 years old when he reported for spring training in 1918. He was born in Scotland, South Dakota, on 25 June 1894.
Cass had played for Des Moines franchise in the Western League the past two seasons. In 28 games in 1916 he batted .336 in 28 games. A regular in 1917 he hit a respectable .284.
The 1917 Des Moines Club had some talent. Washington baseball fans would recognize the name of 32 year old Danny Mueller. Also on the roster is young 20 year old Lefty O’Doul.
Cass had all the tools to play in the majors. And the Old Fox was clearly interested. Here is what was written in the press about Cass. “Danny has all the earmarks of a major leaguer, as he takes a natural cut at the ball and hits hard and often. His fielding to date has been perfect, while his work on the paths has been all that one would ask.”
But there were two issues which worked against the young athlete.
First, his draft status. “Des Moines Danny” has been classified 1A class of the elective draft and may be called for military service at any time.
Washington had already lost young Sam Rice to the draft. Rice had prior military service (US Navy) and had considered rejoining the Navy but elected to take his chances on playing for Washington. However, soon after arriving at training camp, Rice learned that he would soon be called up for service. In fact he was called up in early April.
Second, Cass was under contract to the Des Moines Club and the frugal Old Fox would have to spend an estimated $3,000 to purchase him. The pickle Griffith faced was summed up thusly, “Even in the face of the argument manager Griffith intends to carry Cass until he can complete some other agreement with the Western League Club.”
Sadly fate intervened at the end of March, and doomed his major league career, “Danny Cass the promising-looking young outfielder, may be laid out of the drills for a few days, s he pulled a ligament in his right shoulder during the morning practice. Although he played during the afternoon game he was not in shape to do so, so Trainer Martin has ordered for him a complete rest. Cass was forced into the contest when Howard Shanks was excused from the work because of having contracted a heavy cold during the morning workout.
Cass returned and played for Des Moines in 1918. He appeared in 24 games before joining the Navy, reporting to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois on 6 June.
Cass returned to Des Moines for 1919 season, hitting .308 in 80 games but in late July 1919 Cass developed a case on tonsillitis, developed quinsy or peritonsillar abscess and died on 28 July 1919.
Could Cass have played in the majors, probably so. Could he have been a success, we will never know.