BOSTON, Mass. (WBOY) — On April 20, 1912, the first game at Fenway Park in Boston was played between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Highlanders, who are now the New York Yankees. On that Highlander squad was a man from north central West Virginia who would make history at the park.
All information in this article was sourced from the Society for American Baseball Research.
Guy Zinn was born on February 13, 1887, in Holbrook, WV, a now-defunct community located in rural Ritchie County, about 40 miles from Clarksburg. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Clarksburg where Zinn took up baseball in local sandlot clubs as a child.
Zinn’s career in Clarksburg began to take off in 1906 when he became an outfielder/pitcher for Clarksburg’s amateur league team. This squad became the minor-league Clarksburg Drummers in 1908 and played in the newly organized Class D Pennsylvania-West Virginia League.
Zinn continued to climb the ladder of professional baseball over the years by playing on various teams, moving from Grafton, WV, to Memphis, TN, Macon, GA, Toledo, OH and Altoona, PA. All the while Zinn was able to raise his batting average to a maximum of .317 in Altoona before being picked up by the injury-wrecked New York Highlanders of the American League in 1911 for $1,000, marking his emergence onto a major-league roster.
Zinn made his major league debut on Sept. 11, 1911, in a 12-4 loss to the Philadelphia A’s, hitting only a single against future Hall of Famer Chief Bender. Zinn only appeared in nine more games for the rest of the season and only batted .148 against major league arms. Despite his poor performance, New York kept Zinn on their roster via the reserved list for the 1912 season.
As opening day loomed on the 1912 season, several injuries from spring training began to wreck the Highlander squad yet again, earning Zinn a spot in the opening day lineup against the Boston Red Sox in their newly-constructed home, Fenway Park. As the game began, Zinn became the first player to set foot in the Fenway Park batter’s box where he drew a walk off of Boston pitcher Buck O’Brien, which also made Zinn the first baserunner in Fenway Park history. Zinn’s teammate, Roy Hartzell was then able to hit a single to drive him in, cementing Zinn as the first hitter, baserunner and scorer at the historic ballpark.
Zinn’s history-making was short-lived at the park as he failed to get another hit during the eventual 7-6, 11-inning loss to Boston. Zinn improved throughout the season as his batting average and clutch ability continued to climb with him producing 31 extra-base hits through the middle of the season and a flashy display of speed by stealing home plate twice during an August 15 win over Detroit, becoming only one of 11 players since 1901 to do so.
Despite his flash and clutch ability, Zinn became a headache for Highlanders manager, Harry Wolverton. Zinn was allegedly a “dissension-causing actor” in the Highlander clubhouse and was a frequent card player with suspected game fixer, Hal Chase. On top of this, in 1911 the Highlanders were on a collision course for last place in the league, eventually finishing at 50-102 (.329). All of this, as well as an August batting slump for Zinn, was enough for Wolverton to justify kicking Zinn out of the clubhouse.
Zinn was sent to the Rochester Hustlers of the International League in late August 1912, a move that angered him greatly to the point where he refused to even report to Rochester saying that he “would rather retire than return to the minors.” Zinn was then placed on the Rochester suspended list where he remained for the rest of the 1912 season.
Zinn then briefly returned to a non-baseball life for a few months before reconsidering his decision and publicly announcing that he would return to Rochester for 1913 Spring training. However, a front office seeking to keep the trouble-making Zinn in line demanded that Zinn reimburse the club for the month-plus wages that he forfeited while on the club’s suspended list in 1912. Zinn responded to this by sowing more dissent in the Rochester locker room before being purchased from the team by the National League Boston Braves in August 1913.
Zinn continued to produce in Boston but also continued to have strife between other clubhouse members and coaching staff, which earned him a trip back to Rochester following the 1913 season. Rochester declined to accept Zinn’s return and claimed that they were full-up on outfielders, thus Zinn’s contract was put up for sale and picked up by the now-defunct Federal League Baltimore Terapins where he played until 1915, marking his final season in the majors.
Zinn was demoted to the minors once more and traded around various teams and leagues around the country before concluding his professional career in 1922 with the Hamilton Tigers of the Class B Michigan-Ontario League. Zinn would spend most of his post-baseball life in Poughkeepsie, New York working as a lather and plasterer.
However, in 1949, Zinn was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and returned home to West Virginia. On October 6, 1949, Guy Zinn died at the home of his brother and childhood teammate, Romeo in Nutter Fort. He is currently buried in the Zinn family plot in Greenlawn Cemetery in Clarksburg.