Earl Dothager – Pitcher

Note: his is player biography is part of our feature, The 29th Infantry Division’s Blues and Grays: the men behind one of the Army’s best World War II baseball teams by Drew Sullins, Colonel (Retired), U.S. Army

Earl Dothager of Pleasant Mound, Illinois was already playing in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system when he was drafted into the Army on November 11, 1943. The 5’11” 180-pound right-handed hurler began his career in 1939 with the Monett Red Birds of the Arkansas-Missouri League. Still a 17-year-old for much of his first season, Dothager appeared in 30 games winning six and losing 15 with an earned run average of 5.19.

Earl Dothager with the Class “D” Springfield Cardinals. 1940-42 (courtesy of Kris Dothager).

When St. Louis folded the Monett Red Birds following the ‘39 season, Dothager was transferred to the Springfield Cardinals, where he would spend three seasons in the Western League (1940-42). In Springfield, as a starting pitcher, Dothager went 27 and 23 throwing a solid 315 innings over that time frame. In a twist of fate, in 1940, Dothager’s first season with Springfield, he played with Erwin “Erv” Prasse, the former Iowa football All-American, who would become his manager on the 29th Division “Blues and Grays.”

Early in 1943, St. Louis again made changes to their farm system shutting down the Springfield Cardinals. Unfortunately, Dothager didn’t have a seat when the Cardinals minor league musical chairs stopped, so he sat out the 1943 season. Later that year he was drafted into the Army and ultimately sent to join the war in Europe.

On August 1, 1944, Private Dothager coming from the replacement depot reported to Cannon Company, Headquarters, 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division. He arrived in the 175th Infantry two days before his teammate, George Ortega, and just in time to participate in the Division’s push to take the town of Vire, France. Based on his unit of assignment, Dothager undoubtedly saw plenty of combat. He remained with Cannon Company throughout the remainder of the war and current research shows he was lucky enough not to have been wounded in action, or otherwise injured; a significant feat for anyone who served in the 29th Division.

Dothager’s time on the 29th Division’s baseball team was likely received by him as a great opportunity to rekindle his baseball career. He had the chance to reconnect with his old Springfield Cardinals teammate, Erv Prasse, and interact with big league ballplayers Don Kolloway and “Whitey” Moore. He was also able to pitch in the 1945 ETO summer league against several major leaguers; a solid test for any aspiring ballplayer to determine if they had the goods to make it to the majors.

Dothager with the Class “AA” Shreveport Sports, 1946-47 (courtesy of Kris Dothager).

Dothager was discharged from the Army in late January 1946. With his experience playing for the 29th Division “Blues and Grays,” and still in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, he was able to catch on with the Cardinals affiliate in the AA Texas League, the Houston Buffaloes. Unfortunately, Dothager did not last long with Houston. Newspaper articles show that in two months with Houston, he made about a half-dozen appearances, all in relief, compiling a 2-3 record. But Houston was struggling, and Dothager was sold to the Texas League’s seventh place team, the Shreveport Sports, who were affiliated with the Chicago White Sox.

If Earl Dothager was a man who liked revenge, it did not take him long to get it against his former club. Starting against Houston on July 3, 1946, one month after they sold him to Shreveport, Dothager threw a no-hitter. It was the highlight of his season, and perhaps his career. Shreveport struggled in 1946 finishing 61-92 for seventh place out of eight teams in the Texas League. Dothager was the Sports’ top pitcher that season finishing with 10 wins against five losses for a team best .667 winning percentage. Unfortunately, Earl Dothager’s best professional season in the professional ranks was spent pitching for a bad team.

Dothager came back to Shreveport for the 1947 season and was a workhorse for an improved, but mediocre team that had lost it affiliation with the White Sox. Shreveport finished 75-79 missing the Texas League playoffs by four games. Dothager threw 235-1/3 innings that season, second most on the team, while compiling a record of 11-15.

With Shreveport, 1946-47 (courtesy of Kris Dothager).

Back in Shreveport for the 1948 season, Dothager’s pitching arm began to give him trouble for the first time. In early April, he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his arm and was taking injections to try to dissolve it, but the treatments made his arm lame and him unable to pitch. On May 28, it was announced that Earl would travel to St. Louis to be treated by Dr. Robert Hyland, the renowned Cardinals team physician, who counted among his baseball patients, Ty Cobb, Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig. Hyland’s treatment enabled Dothager to return to the mound, but newspaper accounts indicate he clearly wasn’t himself. On July 1, he was sent down to the Alexandria Aces of the Evangeline League where he would finish out a disappointing season hardly pitching at all.    

By this point, Dothager’s major league dreams were over, but he still kicked around minor league baseball for a few more years. He started the 1949 season in Alexandria but didn’t make it through the season with the Aces despite throwing the second no-hitter of his career on July 26 against the Baton Rouge Red Sticks. He was sent down to Class B ball before the ’49 season ended joining the Southeastern League Anniston Rams in Alabama. Once again, in a coincidental twist, and for a very short time, just 30 games, Dothager was again teammates with a fellow 29th Division Blues & Grays veteran, Billy Seal, Jr., an infielder for Aniston who would soon be traded.

By 1951, after brief stints with the Houma Indians and the Monroe Sports, Earl Dothager’s baseball career was over. He returned to southern Illinois with his wife, Dolphaline, and their three children: two daughters and a son. He was employed as a construction worker in Granite City, Illinois until he retired in 1982. Earl Dothager died at the age of 74 on December 15, 1994, after a prolonged illness.

Continue to William A. Seal, Jr. – Infielder

Return to The 29th Infantry Division’s Blues and Grays: the Men Behind one of the Army’s best World War II Baseball Teams

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