Neal Ball, Cleveland Naps

Neal Ball, Cleveland Naps

I look for the unknown family stories. They’re rewarding. How do I find them? Persistent research on those collateral lines – and luck.

The Williams family of Jamestown Township, Ottawa County & Gaines Township, Kent County was one of my wife’s major family branches in Michigan. Adams Williams was the patriarch and his wife Betsey Bouck the daughter of a Michigan pioneer, Adam Bouck (1830 – Washtenaw County). Adam and Betsey Williams are both buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Paris Township, Kent County. Both the Williams and Bouck families were of Palatinate German descent and came from Schoharie County, New York.

Adams Williams’ son Daniel married Mary Jane Leman in Niagara County, New York about 1850 and moved to Michigan about 1855, apparently the first of his extended family to go west. Daniel granted land in Gaines Township, Kent county to his father in 1856 and lived in Jamestown, Ottawa county with his wife and two children. Tragically, Daniel died of disease in the “War of 1861,” but by then had four children, the last two born in Michigan. Daughter Emma, born about October 1858 married Albert Smith of Grattan Township, Kent County on 29 July 1875. Albert and Emma begat Maud Smith in July 1882. Maud in 1903 married Cornelius Ball of Grand Haven.

Cornelius was of Dutch descent, the son of Cornelis BAL and Jakomina MIERAS of Zeeland, Netherlands. He was called Neal Ball in most records. I traced him and Maud in the various census years and almost by accident discovered Neal was a professional baseball player. One of the results of a search on Ancestry.com produced a baseball trading card of all things with his picture. And it was Neal! That’s pretty cool I thought. So I dug further and discovered a very interesting fact. Neal Ball is credited with accomplishing the first recorded unassisted triple play in professional baseball during a game against the Boston Red Sox played July 19, 1909. During the same game, he set another major league record for shortstops. His glove from that game is on exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I love nice surprise.

D. Bryant

A subscription to Ancestry.com is required to search the Baseball Card database. WMGS is the sponsor of the Ancestry.com access at the Grand Rapids Public Library.