By Ray Carbone
Befitting our small size, New Hampshire has not produced an abundance of notable athletes.
There have been baseball players like Carlton Fisk and Bob Tewskbury, gold-medal skier Penny PItou in the 1960s, and the recently retired pro basketball player Matt Bonner of Concord. Old-time baseball fans still brag about Bobby “Red” Rolf of Penacook, who became third baseman for the same New York Yankees team that featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
But, around here, the closest we have to a confirmed champion is Howard Crossett of Bradford. He was part of a four-man bobsled team that won an Olympic silver medal about 65 years ago.
And then there’s Ralph Cutting – also known as the “Warner Wonder.”
An old “Sports Galley” column in the Concord Monitor referred to him as a “spirited competitor and gallant gentleman.” Teammates noted his “devotion and self-discipline, (and) his rigorous training habits,” it added.
Cutting was born on July 6, 1886, in Sutton, but he must have moved to Warner soon afterwards. As a teenager, he was a stellar player on the Simonds Free High School baseball team.
It wasn’t long before the talented left-handed pitcher was competing against more accomplished athletes in the Concord Sunset League – the same league that produced “Red” Rolf. The league, which was formed in 1909, allowed the best athletes in the area to face off against one another every summer weeknight.
Cutting proved to be a winner, pitching strong enough for his “White Parks” team to help them win the league’s first three championships. (The league, which still plays summer weeknights in the city park, is the oldest “sunset” or, “twilight,” league in America.)
On weekends, Cutting did as most Sunset League players did: he played for his local town team.
That was trouble for the teams that came to face the “Warner Nine.”
“The guys from Concord would always know when they took the train up to Warner that it would be a long afternoon,” said the late Edson (Red) Eastman, long-time Sunset League director in a 1970s Concord Monitor story.
Eventually, word about Cutting’s pitching skills spread beyond the Granite State and he drafted to pitch in a bigger baseball town. The Brockton (Mass.) Tigers were a minor league team that was part of the old New England League.
But he wasn’t there long.
Cutting soon graduated to the Milwaukee Brewers – not the current major league baseball club, but a stellar “AA” minor league team that eventually won seven “little World Series” championships. He had a hand in the first two, in 1913 and 1914, during his five years with the club.
A sports story published in the 1913 Louisville (Ky.) Herald showed a strong, casual Cutting (above), and identified him as “the No-Hit Hero,” presumably a reference to his pitching accomplishments. Midwestern sports writers also dubbed him the “Codfish Ball Expert”; “codfish ball” was an early nickname for a curve ball.
According to the old “Sports Galley,” it was only Cutting’s small statute – “a few inches on his stalwart” – that kept him from becoming a major league pitcher.
And the “Warner Wonder” moniker?
It apparently referred to Cutting’s ability as a local angler and not his baseball abilities.
The local man fished – and played golf – in the Concord area into his nineties.
A real life wonder.