Showing posts with label Ty Cobb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ty Cobb. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Review: 'Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer'

At age 90, Ransom Jackson still considers his entry into the major leagues an accident; however, after reading his new book, “Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer," (2016, Rowman & Littlefield) one will discover that there was no error in Jackson carving a 10-year career that included selections to two All-Star games and a World Series appearance.

Accidental Big Leaguer / Ransom Jackson and Gaylon H. White
Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, Jackson pursed golf and track as high school did not field a football team. It wasn’t until he enrolled at Texas Christian University during World War II where he was urged onto the football team by legendary coach “Dutch” Meyer due to a shortage of male students that his athleticism came to the forefront. Jackson immediately became a star running back on the gridiron despite having no formal playing experience. Seeking to double down on his investment, Meyer recruited Jackson for his baseball nine. Relying on his natural abilities, Jackson excelled on the diamond, batting .500 his freshman year. Quickly, a star was born.

Partnering with journalist Gaylon H. White, Jackson recreates a landscape of major league baseball that has long escaped with witty anecdotes and never-before seen photos from Jackson’s personal collection. The stunning images provide a sense of intimacy from a time in baseball’s history that was far removed from the reaches of social media, where players could maintain a sense of privacy while still being accessible to the fans.

The humble third baseman tells his narrative from a reflective position, at times in amazement of his own experiences and accomplishments. His ability to clearly recall detailed stories of how he played in college with Bobby Layne, to playing for Ty Cobb on a semi-pro team, as well as how he handled competing with Jackie Robinson for the third base position with the Brooklyn Dodgers, give his words the proper momentum to seamlessly roll one story right into the next.

As one of the few living Brooklyn Dodgers alumni, Jackson has preserved a great deal of history by putting together his memoirs. Fifty-five years after Jackson took his final major league at-bat, he courageously put himself back in the lineup at the age of 90, showing that a big leaguer never truly loses his feel for the game no matter how long he has stepped away from the spotlight.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bud Thomas went once around the bases for the St. Louis Browns in 1951

John “Bud” Thomas, a former infielder who played with the St. Louis Browns in 1951, passed away on Saturday in Sedalia, Missouri. He was 86.

The Browns first noticed Thomas in 1947 when he was the shortstop for the West squad in the 1945 Esquire All-American Game at the Polo Grounds that featured Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb as honorary managers. He signed with the club in 1947, and within four years he made the majors by climbing his way from the lowest rung of the minor leagues.
Bud Thomas

In his brief time with Bill Veeck’s team, Thomas hit .350 (7-for-20) while playing flawless defense at shortstop, handling 30 chances without an error. One of those seven precious hits was a home run against the Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. The memory of an unfortunate misplay in the field the inning prior hung a cloud over one of his shining major league moments.

“They gave the guy [Alex Kellner] a hit, but I made an error that let them score three runs,” Thomas said in a 2011 interview. “I replayed that in my mind forever. They scored and it put them ahead 3-4 runs.”

Despite his fielding gaffe, Thomas approached his next at-bat determined to jump on his preferred pitch, a high fastball.

“I come up and there’s nobody on base, and I hit a home run. I know where the pitch was because it was my favorite pitch, high around the letters. I usually hustle down to first base and I didn’t look to see it go out or anything like that. I’m running around and the defense wasn’t moving. I continued running and I think that ball went out of the ballpark. I keep running and nobody was saying anything and I round second base and I say, ‘God I hope to hell that’s a home run. It’s going to be embarrassing if I didn’t hit that out.’”

Thomas returned to the Browns dugout and nobody got up to congratulate him. Sixty years later, the memory of being ignored by his teammates after hitting his first (and only) home run in the major leagues put an even greater damper on what should have been a joyous event.

“I round third base, I get home, and I get on the bench,” he recalled. “I don’t mind saying this now, nobody on that team or the bench never said a thing about it. Nobody said a word. It really got me. That was the recollection. It wasn’t the silent treatment; I didn’t know what the hell it was. That’s [just] the way it was.”

After his standout performance in his short September trial, Thomas was sure that he would get a shot at making the Browns out of spring training in 1952. He later discovered that the cash strapped Browns were looking to make a quick financial play on Thomas’ brief success.

“I had such a great year in ’51,” he said. “I found out when I got there, they were running ballplayers in and out of there all year long to get something going. They figured if they could get someone up there and he showed promise, they could sell him. This is all hindsight. At the time, you don’t think that way. All that other stuff comes out later.”

The Browns sold Thomas’ contract to Toronto of the International League. A surprised Thomas found out not via communication with the team’s front office, but from The Sporting News.

“I’m standing in front of our house and my neighbor said, ‘I thought I you were going to take spring training with the Browns?’ he recalled. “I said, ‘I am.’ He said, ‘Not according to what I read.’ I said, ‘What did you read?’ He said, ‘The Sporting News said you were going to go to Toronto.’ I said, “Get me The Sporting News.’ Sure enough I was traded to Toronto.”

The man who once called future Hall of Famers Leon Day and Satchel Paige his teammates while playing with the Browns organization was out of professional baseball by 1953, only two years after his brief, but shining run in the major leagues. The superintendent of schools in his hometown of Sedalia asked him to come back and teach. He gladly obliged.

“I was primarily an administrator,” he said. “I came back and I was a teacher. I was the first student teacher that came out of the college (University of Central Missouri) that went to Sedalia. I became principal of an elementary school for five years, then I opened another elementary school. For my last 11 years, I was the assistant superintendent of schools.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bob DiPietro, former Boston Red Sox outfielder, dies at 85

Bob DiPietro, a former outfielder for the Boston Red Sox who earned the nickname The Rigatoni Rifle because of his tremendous throwing arm, died two days after his 85th birthday in Yakima, Wash., on September 3, 2012.

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview DiPietro for his SABR biography. Even though DiPietro only made it to the plate 12 times (all in 1951) during his major league career, it was one that included brushes with Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. In addition to being linked to some of the biggest stars that baseball has ever known, he proudly served the country in World War II, and went on to run a successful advertising business in Yakima.

He is survived by his wife Bertie, sons Bob and Mark and their wives Sheryl and Marcy, grandchildren Kiley, Joe, Lexi and Paul.