Fred Luderus: From the World Series to Three Lakes
Summer is baseball season, and many Northwoods residents enjoy playing the game in local leagues or watching professionals on television. A few of those professional players have found the Northwoods equally appealing, and more than one has called the town of Three Lakes home. One of them was first baseman Fred Luderus.
Frederick William Luderus was born in Milwaukee in September 1885. The son of German immigrants, Luderus grew up in Milwaukee’s German American community and as a teenager gained a reputation as a talented athlete. He loved the game of baseball and played first baseman in Milwaukee’s sandlot leagues. While he enjoyed baseball, he had to earn a living and apprenticed in the plumbing trade.
From 1905 to 1907, Luderus played minor league baseball in the Northern Copper Country League. During those three years he played for Sault St. Marie, Grand Forks, and Winnipeg, but after each season he was back in Milwaukee working as a plumber. The Northern League folded after 1907. Luderus contracted diphtheria and sat out the 1908 season, but in 1909 played for Freeport, Illinois, in the Wisconsin-Illinois League.
Late in the 1909 season, the Chicago Cubs found themselves in need of a replacement for injured first baseman Frank Chance. On a recommendation from scout George Huff, they found Luderus working his plumbing job in Milwaukee. The Cubs purchased his minor league contract, and Luderus made his first appearance in the Major Leagues in September 1909.
Luderus played for the Cubs until July 1910, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. Luderus played backup through the 1910 season, but in 1911 he won the starting first baseman position. Luderus had a 12-year major league career, appeared in 1346 games, and at one time held the major league record for consecutive games played. In the 1915 World Series he batted .438 with 6 RBIs and hit the only home run for the Phillies in Game 5 against the Boston Red Sox.
Luderus retired from the major leagues after the 1920 season but remained in baseball. Starting in 1921, he spent ten of the next thirteen years as a manager in the minor leagues, eight as a player-manager. Seven of those seasons were spent managing in Oklahoma.
Luderus returned to his Wisconsin home after each season and worked as a handyman at the Milwaukee Yacht Club, but he loved the Northwoods and after 1926 Luderus had made the town of Three Lakes his permanent residence. He built a home on Range Line Lake, and with the assistance of fellow Phillies teammate Cy Williams, who also moved to Three Lakes, built a resort called the Hy-Mont.
Luderus has never been inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, nor has he been honored on Philadelphia’s Baseball Wall of Fame, although his stats warrant it. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame on November 20, 1958. On the night of his induction, Milwaukee Braves general manager John Quinn called him “an inspiration to the youth of Milwaukee and Wisconsin.”
Eventually Luderus started his own toy business in Three Lakes and developed a national market for dolls and animals made of yarn. He remained a resident of Three Lakes for the rest of his life.
Early in 1961, Fred Luderus suffered a heart attack and died. His body was taken from Three Lakes and interred in Milwaukee’s Pinelawn Cemetery.