That is, I assume, Charlie Hoover, the only C.E. Hoover to ever play professional baseball, according to baseball-reference.com. Hoping, in accordance with his name, Hoover would turn out to have been a good defensive player, I looked up his stats. He was not.
In his one full season in the American Association, Hoover played in 71 games, 66 of them behind the plate. In those 66 games as a catcher, he made 34 errors and allowed 58 passed balls.
Of course, those numbers aren’t atypical for the American Association, when games must have been so excruciating to watch it’s a wonder baseball even caught on. Hoover’s teammate Herman Long, a rookie shortstop nicknamed “Germany,” made 122 errors in 136 games, leading the league*.
And two catchers allowed more passed balls than Hoover did that season. Louisville backstop (to use the term loosely) and incredible mustache-haver Farmer Vaughn allowed 60 passed balls in 54 games behind the plate. His teammate, fellow mustache man Paul Cook, allowed 77 passed balls in 74 games at catcher to lead the league. Perhaps they were mesmerized by pitcher Guy Hecker’s razor-sharp mustache.
If you took in a Louisville Colonels game in 1889, it was better-than-even-money there was a passed ball. Also, they probably lost. The Colonels finished 27-111 that season. The upside is that 65 of their games were managed by an outfielder named Chicken Wolf. Chicken Wolf also had an amazing mustache.
As for the passed balls: Catchers didn’t wear shin guards until 1907 and, according to this, the chest protector was first invented in 1886, so depending on how quickly that caught on, it’s possible ol’ Charlie Hoover was out there behind the plate wearing little more than a mask, a mitt and what you see above. Except he wasn’t wearing that uniform in the American Association — he played for the Kansas City Cowboys. His lone season playing in Chicago came in the single-A Western Association in 1888.
*- For the sake of the disappointingly clean-cut shortstop Long’s honor, it’s worth noting that he also led the league in putouts by a pretty wide margin and finished third in the league in stolen bases, so it seems likely his high error total was at least in part due to his range. You get to the most balls in 1889, you boot the most balls in 1889. Like, 122 of them. Also, perhaps he was distracted on throws by first baseman Dan Stearns’ enchanting mustache.