Moser, Walter

Primary Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Mount Pleasant

First, Middle Names:  Walter Frederick
Date of Birth:  Feb. 27, 1881  Date and Place of Death: Dec. 10, 1946         Burial: West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

High School: Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute, Mount Pleasant, NC
College: Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC

Bats: R Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-9, 170
Debut Year: 1906        Final Year: 1911    Years Played: 2
Teams and Years: Philadelphia Phillies, 1906; Boston Red Sox, 1911; St. Louis Browns, 1911

Career Summary
G          W         L           Sv         ERA             IP          SO        WAR
14        0          7           0           4.58           70.2      30         -3.1

Despite what his numbers suggest, Walter Moser could pitch. Down in the minors, he won more than 120 games during a six-year career. He won 19 straight once, a sure sign that the guy could consistently pitch winning baseball. And there’s this: He had 30 wins in another season, a benchmark that few pitchers at any level ever reach. As with any Dead Ball Era pitcher worth his chewing tobacco, he logged more than 300 innings most years and often started both games of doubleheaders.

Why, then, did this effective minor-league pitcher stink it up in the majors? How did a guy who played well everywhere else accumulate in only 14 big-league games the lowest Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, of any his North Carolina pitching peers? That number implies that Moser’s teams were better off with someone else on the mound, that they lost more than three games over his short career with him out there instead of an average pitcher.

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Wood, Ken

Primary Position: Outfield
Birthplace: Lincolnton

First, Middle Names:  Kenneth Lanier
Date of Birth:  July 1, 1924      Date and Place of Death: Nov. 22, 2007, Myrtle Beach, SC
Burial: Cremated

High School: Paw Creek High School, Paw Creek, NC; Central High School, Charlotte, NC
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R              Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-0, 200
Debut Year: 1948        Final Year: 1953    Years Played: 6
Teams and Years: St. Louis Browns, 1948-51; Boston Red Sox, 1952; Washington Senators, 1952-53

Career Summary
G           AB           H           R           RBI         HR        BA.       OBP.      SLG.      WAR
342     995       223       110      143        34         .224      .298      .393      -3.3

Ken Wood was a lumbering 200-pound outfielder with a cannon for an arm and a bit of lightning in his bat. Unfortunately, he had hands of stone. He was so dreadful in the field, in fact, that his teams would have been better off without him in the lineup.

Poor defense combine with a lackluster bat to give Wood the lowest Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, of any of the more than 400 North Carolina natives who have played in the major leagues. That’s an advanced statistic that attempts to summarize a player’s total contributions to his team – his hitting, pitching, running, fielding — by estimating how many games a team can be expected to win with the player in the lineup instead of an average player coming off the bench or called up from the minors. The player’s value to his team accumulates over the course of his career, and the resulting number is expressed in plus or minus games, which can be useful yardsticks to compare players of different eras.[1] Wood has a -3.3 lifetime WAR, meaning the teams he played for during a six-year career in the majors lost more than three games with him in the lineup instead of a substitute.

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West, Weldon

Player Name: West, Weldon
Primary Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Gibsonville

First, Middle Names:  Weldon Edison
Nickname: Lefty

Date of Birth:  Sept. 3, 1915   Date and Place of Death: July 23, 1979, Hendersonville, NC
Burial: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hendersonville, NC

High School: Undetermined
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-0, 165
Debut Year: 1944        Final Year: 1945          Years Played: 2
Team and Years: St. Louis Browns, 1944-45

Career Summary
G          W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
35        3         4          0         4.29     98.2     49        -0.5

Weldon “Lefty” West lost almost twice as many games as he won down in the low minors, but he got his shot in the major leagues as World War II ground on and depleted team rosters. When the war ended, West finished his career back in the bushes.

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Hearn, Bunny

Primary Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Chapel Hill

First, Middle Names:  Charles Bunn
Nickname: Bunny

Date of Birth:  May 21, 1891  Date and Place of Death: Oct. 19, 1959, Wilson, NC
Burial: Maplewood Cemetery, Wilson, NC

High School: Undetermined
Colleges: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS; Elon University, Elon, NC

Bats: L Throws: L        Height and Weight: 5-11, 190
Debut Year: 1910        Final Year: 1920          Years Played: 6
Teams and Years: St. Louis Cardinals, 1910-11; New York Giants, 1913; Pittsburgh Rebels, 1915; Boston Braves, 1918, 1920

Awards/Honors: N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, 1993

Career Summary
G           W        L            Sv       ERA        IP           SO       WAR
66        13        24        0          3.56       399.2  111      +1.3

For almost three decades, folks in the college town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, knew spring was imminent when the big, black Cadillac pulled up in front of Woollen Gym. A portly, resplendent figure emerged. A passing student might yell a welcome, “Hey, Big Steam.” The Caddy’s occupant might wave an acknowledgement before disappearing into the building. Bunn Hearn was back in town for another Carolina baseball season.

He spent most his of his life in baseball. An accomplished pitcher in the minor leagues, he won more than 200 games over 19 seasons. The big-league portion of his career is scant by comparison, just 66 games scattered over six summers.

Hearn, however, is best remembered for his 26 years as a baseball coach at the University of North Carolina. He was head coach for about half that time, preaching the importance of fundamentals – “old timey, country baseball,” he called it – while leading his kids to more than 200 victories and six Southern Conference championships. Hearn understood young players, nurtured their talents, and gently corrected their failings, usually with a funny story. He was never known to be harsh or critical. “Hang in there, old fellow,” he would counsel. “We’ll get ‘em back.”[I]

In so doing, he became so beloved a figure that the governor thought it proper to proclaim a statewide day in his honor when Hearn retired. The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inducted him posthumously in 1993 for his coaching achievements.

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Lewis, Buddy

Primary Positions: Third base, right field
Birthplace: Gaston County

First, Middle Names:  John Kelly Jr.
Date of Birth:  Aug. 10, 1916  Date and Place of Death: Feb. 18, 2011, Gastonia, NC
Burial: Cremated

High School: Lowell High School, Lowell, NC
College: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Bats: L Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-1, 175
Debut Year: 1935        Final Year: 1949          Years Played: 11
Team and Years: Washington Senators, 1935-41; 1945-47; 1949

Awards/Honors: NC Sports Hall of Fame, 1975; All-Star, 1938, 1947; Boys of Summer Top 100

Career Summary
G             AB         H           R            RBI       HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
1349    5261    1563    839     607      71        .297     .368     .420     +29.1

The “baby of the American League” is what they called Buddy Lewis when he broke in as the starting third baseman for the Washington Senators in 1935.[I] He was all of 19 years old, just a year or so removed from American Legion ball back home in Gastonia, North Carolina. Sportswriters speculated whether one razor blade would last him the season.

He may have been a fresh-faced teenager but there was a reason why he was starting in the majors. He could hit, and he only got better as he matured — and presumably needed more razor blades. For nine seasons, Lewis was a reliable presence atop the Senators’ lineup, hitting close to .300 each year. No telling how much better he would have been if he didn’t take three years off to fight a war. Unlike so many ballplayers who spent World War II entertaining troops by playing ball, Lewis was in the thick of it, flying transport planes on almost 400 missions over the Himalayas to ferry supplies and commandos behind enemy lines. He came back a hero, though he never thought of himself as such, and one of the most decorated of major leaguers with a Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal.

But he wasn’t the same player. Time robbed him of skills and the war stanched his appetite for a game. He played only two full seasons after he returned, and his batting average diminished. Though only 33, the lifelong Gaston County resident retired and returned home where he owned a car dealership that gradually made him wealthy. He lived a long, quiet life, became a respected elder and a devoted supporter of the American Legion, where his baseball career had begun.

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