Google the name “Frank Bonner” and your first results focus on the actor who played Herb Tarlek in the hilarious sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati from 1978-81. If baseball’s Frank Bonner had taken his job a little more seriously, things might have been different.
Born in Lowell, MA four years after President Lincoln’s assassination, Bonner stood just 5’7 1/2″ but worked his way up to the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles in 1894. After bouncing around for several years, he landed with the Cleveland Blues (Broncos) in 1902 where photographer Carl Horner took his picture. That rare image, which made its way into a newspaper archive, is now on the auction block. RMY Auctions is offering the 3 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ studio portrait in its May auction. One of few known images of Bonner, the back includes hand-written identification on the back.
Bonner didn’t pan out in Cleveland either. His penchant for alcohol and finding a good time kept him from becoming the star player some in baseball thought he’d be.
“Now I realize what a fool I was,” he said late in his career. “I wasted the best years of my life and lots of money, and now that I am no longer a kid I am next to myself, and am behaving, as I should have done years ago.”
After stints with Philadelphia and Boston, Bonner’s career was over by 1903. In the summer of 1905, his wife committed suicide and on New Year’s Eve, Bonner died of blood poisoning at age 36.
Auction bidding continues through Saturday, May 11 at RMYAuctions.com.