Chambers, Rome

Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Weaverville

First, Middle Names: Richard Jerome       Nicknames: Rome
Date of Birth: Aug. 31, 1875   Date and Place of Death: Aug. 30, 1902
Burial: Chambers Family Cemetery, Weaverville

High School: Undetermined
College: Weaver College, Weaverville

Bats: L Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-2, 173
Debut Year: 1900        Final Year: 1900          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Boston Beaneaters, 1900

Career Summary
G          W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
1          0          0          0          11.25   4.0       2          -0.2

Rome Chambers was the third North Carolinian to play in the major leagues and the first from the state’s mountains. His stay was brief, a mere four innings in one game in 1900, but his manager liked what he saw and thought he’d be back after a bit of seasoning in the minors. Chambers didn’t get the chance. Two years later, he was dead, a day shy of his 27th birthday.

Richard Jerome Chambers was born in 1875, the same year the small community of Reems Creek north of Asheville was incorporated and renamed Weaverville after a prominent local resident. His parents, Robert and Bathilda, raised five children on the family farm outside town. The oldest, Ogburn, would become a well-known dentist in Asheville whose passing would be deeply mourned in 1929 after he was struck by a bicycle on a city street.

There are a few tidbits here and there in the historical and genealogical records about Rome, the next in the family’s lineup of kids. Census reports indicate that he lived with his parents all his life, working on the family farm. It’s not known when he started playing baseball. We know he pitched a few innings for the Richmond, Virginia, Giants of the Atlantic League in 1897 and one season two years later for Weaver College, a local Methodist school.[1] He was described by his contemporaries at the time: “When the style for pitching balls with a steam engine or shooting them from a cannon to the batter comes in fashion, Mr. Chambers will lose his job, but not before. If he could write letters as nicely as he plays ball, he would doubtless hear from his sweetheart oftener than once a month.”[I]

Chambers traveled the 150 or so miles to Greensboro, North Carolina, in the spring of 1900 to attend a tryout camp sponsored by the Boston Beaneaters, one of the original members of the National League.[2] A few weeks later, on May 7, the “North Carolina mountaineer,” as the Boston’s newspapers called him, found himself on the mound at the Beaneaters’ South End Grounds for the 15th game of the new season. Manager Frank Selee sent the rookie in to start the fourth inning against the New York Giants. Chambers pitched four innings and gave up five runs in an 18-11 slugfest won by Boston, though he wasn’t credited with the victory.

A summation of his work that day resides in the archives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York “He had speed and nerves but lacked control,” it says.[II] Selee was a bit more diplomatic three days later when he shipped Chambers to Toronto, Canada, in the Eastern League. He told the press that he had “great faith in Chambers becoming a good man after a year on a minor-league team.”[III]

Chambers never made it back. He died in Weaverville in 1902 of unknown causes. His will lists no heirs.

Footnotes
[1] Weaverville College was founded as a Methodist, coeducational academy in 1851 by the local Sons of Temperance. The school was renamed Weaver College in 1912 to honor Montraville Weaver who donated land for the first buildings. The Methodist Church merged it with Rutherford College in 1933 to create Brevard College in Brevard, NC. (Hill, Michael, “Weaver College.” NCPedia, 2006. https://www.ncpedia.org/weaver-college).
[2] The Boston Red Stockings were one of the charter franchises of the National League in 1876. Its name was changed to the Beaneaters seven years later. While colorful, the name always irked some Bostonians. After two  more changes, the “Braves” was adopted as the official name in 1912 when no one much cared about what Native Americans might think. Except for a brief sojourn as the Bees in the 1930s, the Braves name stuck. The team played in Boston until 1953 when it moved to Milwaukee. It now resides in Atlanta, where it’s been since 1966.

References
[i] Goode, Tyler Norris. “Rome’s Big Day.” Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, May 7, 2006.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] “Rome J. Chambers Farmed Out to Toronto.” Boston (MA) Globe, May 10, 1900.

 

 

Chakales, Bob

Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Asheville

First, Middle Names: Robert Edward            Nickname: The Golden Greek
Date of Birth:  Aug. 10, 1927  Date and Place of Death: Feb. 18, 2010, Richmond, VA
Burial: Westhampton Memorial Park, Richmond, VA

High School: Benedictine High School, Richmond, VA
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-1, 185
Debut Year: 1951       Final Year: 1957          Years Played: 7
Teams and Years: Cleveland Indians, 1951-54; Baltimore Orioles, 1954; Chicago White Sox, 1955; Washington Senators, 1956-57; Boston Red Sox, 1957

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
171     15       25        11        4.54     420.1  187      0.3

Bob Chakales was a serviceable and, at times, effective relief pitcher during his seven years of bouncing around the American League. When he retired, he turned an avocation, golf, into a lucrative second career building courses all over the country.

Edward Peter – Eddie Pete to all who knew him – and Blanche Chakales (pronounced SHACK-ulls) named the first of their six children Robert Edward when he was born in August 1927. Eddie Pete was the son of Greek immigrants who had settled in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1902, the year Eddie Pete was born. His family moved around, first to Salisbury, North Carolina, by 1910 and then to Asheville 10 years later, where Eddie Pete met and wooed Blanche Wiggs.

They both had jobs when The Depression began two years after their first child’s birth — Eddie Pete was a waiter and Blanche sold women’s clothing in a downtown store – but they moved to Rocky Mount, North Carolina, by 1930 where Eddie Pete repaired hats for a dry cleaner. They moved again, when Bob was in the fifth grade, to Dunn, North Carolina, where his father opened a café.

The youngster kicked around the town’s sandlots playing pick-up baseball games with the other kids. “We used to stitch corncobs together to make balls,” he remembered.[i] He was also an expert marbles shooter and once won the state shooting contest.

When he got older, Chakales played for a youth league, which posted its statistics in a downtown barber shop. “Every week the baseball stats were prominently displayed for everyone to see. I was hitting so well I could get a free lollipop anytime I wanted,” he said.[ii]

As a teenager, he played third base for the local American Legion team. When he was hort of pitching one season, his coach asked him to take the mound for one of the last games. Chakales won, and he was a pitcher when the new season began.

The family moved again, this time to Richmond, Virginia, soon before Chakalas started high school. The American Legion team, though, wanted him back so badly that Dunn’s mayor, Herbert Taylor, offered him room and board to return for one season. Taylor even went to Richmond and drove the team’s star hurler back. Chakales opened the season striking out 18 and pitched Dunn into the state finals. He was named the tournament’s outstanding pitcher.

There was a price for stardom, however. The mayor was an undertaker, and Chakales spent the summer in his funeral home, sleeping above the coffins and corpses. During a vicious thunderstorm one night, one of the bodies sat up on the table, not that uncommon under the right combination of rigor mortis and tendon contraction, it was explained to him later. The terrified kid bolted out of the building and aimlessly ran across town in the pelting rain. “A funeral home is no place for a young person to spend their summer,” he later decided.[iii]

Three-sport stardom awaited Chakales at what was then Benedictine High School, a Catholic military school in Richmond known for its strong sports programs.[1]  He pitched, played quarterback, and was a guard on the basketball team. He won eight in a row, which included a no hitter, and batted .353 his senior year in 1945 when he was named to the all-state teams in all three sports.

Colleges came calling, but the offer that intrigued Chakales the most was the one that arrived from the Philadelphia Phillies, who invited the youngster to a tryout at their home field, Shibe Park. The team’s scouts were impressed enough that they offered him a contract that included a $7,500 bonus, equivalent to about $100,000 today, and $4,000 for college, though he would never attend. He signed, of course, and pitched that summer in the low minors.

After a year in the Army playing for the base team at Fort Lee, Virginia, Chakales spent three more years at the bottom of the minor leagues, pitching for the Phillies and then the Cleveland Indians, who picked him up in 1949. His breakout came a year later in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the Indians’ Class A franchise. He won 16 games, while giving up an average of just two runs a start, and was named an Eastern League All-Star. He made the jump to the majors the following spring.

We don’t know if Chakales brought his nickname with him to the big leagues or how frequently he was called the Golden Greek. Its origins are apparent but whether he acquired it on the sandlots of Dunn, as a three-sport prep star, or in the minor isn’t.

He did arrive at the Indians’ training camp in Tucson, Arizona, lugging 10 suits, 17 pairs of pants, and 25 shirts. “Man, I didn’t come here just for a visit. I came here to stay,” he explained.[iv] Hal Lebovitz of the Cleveland News was much taken with the youngster, calling him “a likable rookie with a friendly smile … as colorful as Dizzy Dean’s … something like a character in a Ring Lardner yarn.”[v]

Unless he pitched like Dean, it wasn’t likely that a rookie just up from the depths of Class A would break into one of the best starting rotations in baseball history. It included future Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Bob Lemon and featured three pitchers who would win 20 games in each of the next two seasons.[2] “With any other major-league team, he would be a starting pitcher,” manager Al Lopez would later say of Chakales.[vi]

He broke camp as a reliever, but he managed to start 10 games that year, his career high. He won just three of them, but his earned-run average, or ERA, of 4.74 was respectable. His walks – 43 in just 68 innings – were not, however.  Chakales would average about five walks a game throughout his career, a number that likely contributed to his frequent travels to the minors.

That’s what he did over the next three years with Cleveland, moving up and down to and from its Class AAA team in Indianapolis, Indiana, appearing in a total of 15 games for the big-league club. He was traded in June 1952 to Baltimore and gave the Orioles three months of solid pitching. Working mostly out of the bullpen, he appeared in 38 games with a 3.73 ERA.

Two trades later, Chakales was in Washington in 1956 and probably his best season in the major leagues. He pitched 96 innings for the Senators and limited opponents to about four runs a game.

The next season was his last in the major leagues. He spent it split between the Senators and Boston Red Sox and pitching sporadically and ineffectively. After three more years in the minor leagues, Chakales retired in 1961.

He and his wife, Anne, who were married in 1952, had never left Richmond. They would raise five children there. Chakales sold insurance after he retired and played a lot of golf. He and a partner later built par-three golf courses and then championship courses, including the original TPC Sawgrass course in Ponte Vedra, Florida, the site of the PGA’s Player’s Championship. “I was gone more than I wanted to be,” he said of his second career.  “I was good at what I did, but fearful I would not get that next job – so fortunately I had many offers so I kept my plate full.”[vii]

He was 83 when he died in Richmond in 2010.

Footnotes
[1] Benedictine monks from Belmont Abby, North Carolina, opened a military college in Richmond, VA, in 1911. It was a high school by the time Bob Chakalas enrolled in 1942. The high school still exists and is now called Belmont College Preparatory School.
[2] The 20-game winners on the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff in 1951 and their win totals were Bob Feller, 22; Mike Garcia, 20; and Early Wynn, 20. In 1952, the 20-game winners and their win totals were: Wynn, 23; Garcia, 22; and Bob Lemon, 22.

References
[i] Nowlin, Bill. “Bob Chakalas.” Society for American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/bob-chakales/.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Ibid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackburn, Ron

Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Mount Airy

First, Middle Names: Ronald Hamilton
Date of Birth:  April 23, 1935  Date and Place of Death: April 29, 1998, Morganton, NC
Burial: Carolina Memorial Park, Kannapolis, NC

High School: A.L. Brown High School, Kannapolis, NC
Colleges: Catawba College, Salisbury, NC; Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC

Bats: R Throws: R       Height and Weight: 6-0, 160
Debut Year: 1958       Final Year: 1959          Years Played: 2
Teams and Years: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1958-59

 Career Summary
G          W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
64        3          2         4          3.50    108.0  50       0.8

In the era of baseball bonus babies, Ron Blackburn made it to the majors the old-fashioned way. Teams didn’t throw wads of money at him or promise him a spot on the roster when he graduated from high school in 1953, as they had done to his older brother a few years earlier. He was among the 80 kids who showed up for a Pittsburgh Pirates’ tryout in Burlington, North Carolina, that summer. “We got up at 5:30 in the morning and drove 100 miles to get there,” he recalled years later.[I]

He stood out among the horde, and the Pirates’ scout asked him to come back. “When I was called to pitch the next day in a squad game, I faced only six batters but struck out four of them,” he remembered. “That’s when the Pirates offered me a contract and I signed.”[II]

Unlike his brother and other promising youngsters who got bonuses, Blackburn received no additional money for signing and no guarantee that he would be on a major-league roster. Like thousands before him, Blackburn was shipped to the minors where he labored for most of his career. He was different from his brother and most other bonus babies in another regard: He made it to the majors. He spent parts of two seasons in Pittsburgh.

Blackburn was born in Mount Airy in 1935 but grew up in Kannapolis, North Carolina, where his parents, Henry and Virginia, moved with their four children for jobs in the textile mills. He pitched and played basketball at A.L. Brown High School and led his American Legion team to a state championship in 1952.

Henry had pitched semipro ball in Virginia and his oldest son, Gerald, had been a pitching sensation at Brown. A coveted prospect wooed by several teams, he had signed in 1950 with the Cincinnati Reds after agreeing to a $30,000 bonus, or almost $340,000 today.[1] Wild and overweight, he never made it to the majors. The Reds, said Blackburn, released his brother “when he got so fat.” He ended up in Kannapolis working in a mill and pitching on industrial teams.[III]

Blackburn played four years in the Pirates’ farm system before being called up in 1958. The 22-year-old won his debut on April 15 after tossing three-innings of shutout ball against the world champion Milwaukee Braves. Though he pitched well as a rookie reliever – 3.39 earned-run average in more than 63 innings — Blackburn became the forgotten man in a talented bullpen led by Roy Face and Don Gross.[2] Though he had a good start the following season, he was shipped to the minors in July and remained there until his retirement in 1964.

He always returned home in the offseasons and, starting in 1957, he began attending Catawba College in nearby Salisbury, North Carolina, and was even their pitching coach for a season. It took almost eight years, but Blackburn earned a degree in physical education.

He worked a bit faster with Sandra Lower. He met the Catawba student from Pennsylvania, probably during his freshman semester. They were married in June the following year and would have two sons.

After he retired, Blackburn became the head baseball coach at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, in 1964. The teams were competitive during the four seasons he was at the helm, compiling a 78-65 record. When he wasn’t on the ballfield or on the road recruiting, Blackburn was in the classroom working for his master’s degree in physical education, which he received in 1965.

He put the degree to work in 1972 as the recreational director of the Western Correctional Center, a new, 16-story state prison near Morganton, North Carolina. The state soon designated it as a prison for youthful offenders and changed its name to the Western Youth Institution.[3] Blackburn developed a therapeutic recreation program for handicapped inmates that was adopted by all state prisons and was used as a model in other states.

Blackburn died in Morganton in 1998, six days after his 63rd birthday.

Footnotes
[1] Major-League Baseball instituted the Bonus Rule in 1947 to prevent wealthy teams from accumulating talented youngsters and stashing them in their minor leagues. The original rule stipulated that when it signed a player to a contract worth more than $4,000, a major-league team had to keep that player on its 40-man roster for two full-seasons. That was the rule in place when the Cincinnati Reds signed Gerald Blackburn, Ron’s brother, in 1950. Though he was on the Reds’ protected roster for the required two seasons, Gerald was never promoted to the next step, the 25-man roster, and to the majors. The Reds released him after he spent five years in their farm system. The Bonus Rule was rescinded in December 1950 because teams found ways to circumvent it, but a stronger one was re-instituted three years later. It required affected players to remain on the major-league roster for two seasons. The rule was abandoned for good in 1965 when the amateur draft was started. Rookies signed under the rule were derisively called “bonus babies” because they bypassed baseball’s usual training in the minors and took roster spots normally reserved for more-seasoned players. (https://tht.fangraphs.com/cash-in-the-cradle-the-bonus-babies/.)
[2] A six-time All-Star, Elroy Face pitched 16 years in the major leagues and was one of the era’s premier relievers. Though the “save” wasn’t an official statistic until 1969, Face’s last season, he is credited retroactively with 191 of them. Don Gross was a workhorse relief pitcher during much of six-year career. He appeared in 40 games and pitched more than 74 innings during Ron Blackburn’s rookie season in 1958.
[3] The Western Youth Institution could house up to 800 inmates, making it one of the largest prisons in the state. Known for its innovative programs to help young offenders stay out of prison once they were released, the prison closed in 2013 and was imploded in July 2020.

References
[I] Eck, Frank. Associated Press. “Jerry Blackburn Cost Reds $30,000, But Bucs Obtained Ron for Nothing.” Daily-Times (Burlington, NC), April 26, 1958.
[II] United Press International. “Ron Blackburn Had Bright Hopes.” New Castle (PA) News, September 20, 1958.
[III] Eck.

 

 

 

Glass, Tom

Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Greensboro

First, Middle Names: Thomas Joseph

Date of Birth:  April 29, 1898 Date and Place of Death: Dec. 15, 1981, Greensboro
Burial: Moriah Methodist Church Cemetery, Greensboro, NC

High School: South Buffalo School, Guilford County, NC
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-3, 170
Debut Year: 1925       Final Year: 1925          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Philadelphia Athletics, 1925

 Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
2          1          0          0          5.40     5.0       2          -0.1

Tom Glass was in the major leagues for only four days. He pitched five innings in two games, winning one of them thanks to one of the greatest late-inning comebacks in baseball history.

Connie Mack, manager and part owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, bought Glass from the Canners of Cambridge, Maryland, in the Eastern Shore League in September 1924. Though the Class D team played at the lowest level of the minor leagues, the youngster had won 31 games in two seasons. Glass reported to Philadelphia the following year and joined a talented group of A’s rookies that included Lefty Grove and Mickey Cochrane.[1] In his debut on June 12 in the A’s Shibe Park, Glass took the mound in the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox with his team already down 13-0. He gave up a run on a couple of hits in the 15-1 loss.

Mack called on him again three days later against the Cleveland Indians. He entered the game in the sixth in a little better shape – the A’s were down just 12-2. He yielded three more runs, only one was earned, in his three innings of work, but this time the Athletics didn’t roll over. They scored a run in sixth and the seventh and 13 in the eighth. Glass got the win in the 17-15 victory that Baseball Roundtable, a highly respected website, considers the greatest late-inning comeback. The outburst in the eighth included seven singles, a triple, a home run and three walks. Ten different players crossed the plate and in one stretch, ten straight batters reached base.[I]

Mack apparently wasn’t impressed because he released Glass a week later.[2] His major-league career over almost as soon as it started, the 27-year-old returned home to Guilford County, North Carolina.[II]

Glass was born there in 1898. He was among the 10 children that David and Mary Magnolia, known as Maggie, would raise on their farm along South Buffalo Creek northeast of Greensboro. He attended South Buffalo School and played for local semipro teams after graduating around 1916.[3]

Before joining the Canners, Glass pitched professionally for Reidsville, North Carolina, in the Bi-State League and for the Newark, New Jersey, Bears, in the International League. His control and Popeye forearms developed from years on the farm set him apart. “Glass has hams on the end of his arms like a steam shovel’s scoops. He could make a living dredging for oysters  any time he quit baseball,” a Newark newspaper reporter noted. “But most rooks are (as) wild as Barnum’s alleged wild man from Borneo. This fellow is as accurate as the pitching needle on a sewing machine. You never saw better control.”[III]

After his release from the Athletics, Glass got married and eventually moved to Greensboro where he worked as a carpenter and house painter. His wife, Pearl, died in 1964. He died in 1981. They apparently had no children.

Footnotes
[1]Lefty Grove was the dominant pitcher of his era. He won 300 games in a 17-year career and is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Catcher Mickey Cochrane played 13 years, won two Most-Valuable Player Awards and ended with a .320 average. He, too, is in the Hall of Fame.

[2] Along with Tom Glass, Connie Mack released a catcher named, according to the newspapers at the time, James Fox. Glass’ career was over, but Jimmie Foxx came back in 1926 and would become one of baseball’s most-feared sluggers. Double X would play 20 years and win three Most-Valuable Player Awards, two batting titles and a Triple Crown. He’s enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
[3] South Buffalo School opened in 1902 on the site of Gillespie Park Elementary School in Guilford County. It accommodated about 40 students. A larger building was built in 1916. The current building was completed in 1929.

References
[I] “
Tom Glass’ Remarkable (and only) Win …. and a Look at Some of MLB’s “Backs-Against-The-Wall” Comebacks.” Baseball Roundtable.com., March 6, 2021. http://www.baseballroundtable.com/tom-glass-remarkable-and-only-win-and-a-look-at-some-of-mlbs-back-against-the-wall-comebacks/.
[II] Bevis, Charlie. “Tom Glass.” Society of American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/tom-glass/.
[III] “Tom Glass Makes ‘Em Sit Up and Take Notice.” Reidsville (NC) Review. April 16, 1923.

 

 

 

 

Wicker, Kemp

Positions: Relief, starting pitcher
Birthplace: Kernersville

First, Middle Names: Kemp Caswell
Date of Birth:  Aug. 13, 1906  Date and Place of Death: July 11, 1973, Kernersville
Burial: United Methodist Church Cemetery, Kernersville

High School: Undetermined
Colleges: Weaver College, Weaverville, NC; N.C. State University, Raleigh, NC

Bats: R             Throws: L        Height and Weight: 5-11, 182
Debut Year: 1936       Final Year: 1941          Years Played: 4
Teams and Years: New York Yankees, 1936-38; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1941

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
40      10        7          1          4.66    141.0   27        -0.1

Though he pitched in the major leagues for parts of only four seasons, Kemp Wicker spent almost half his life in baseball as a player and manager in the minors or as a scout. He was a member of some of the great teams in baseball history.

He was born on a farm in Kernersville in eastern Forsyth County in 1906, the youngest of Jasper and Alice Whicker’s five children. Notice the spelling of the family’s surname. That’s how it appears in census records and on birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, and tombstones. It’s not known why the family’s only son chose the alternate spelling when he became a professional baseball player.

Wicker in 1926 pitched for Weaver College, a Methodist junior college in Weaverville, North Carolina.[1] Two years later, he was playing for North Carolina State College in Raleigh.

While at N.C. State, Wicker also pitched for minor-league clubs in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Over the next 27 years, he would play for or manage 20 different teams in the minors from Canada to Georgia.

The New York Yankees signed him in 1932, and he worked his way through their farm system, winning 20 games two years later for their Class A club in Binghamton, New York. He debuted with the Yankees in 1936 and spent three seasons shuttling across the Hudson River to and from their Class AA club in Newark, New Jersey. He won seven games and pitched 88 innings for the Yankees as a spot starter and reliever in 1937, his longest tenure in the majors. He also pitched a scoreless inning against the crosstown New York Giants in the fourth game of the World Series that year.

Wicker rubbed shoulders with the immortals during his brief time in the majors. The Yankees of his time were one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history, winning four consecutive pennants starting in 1936. Seven players in the dugout with Wicker would end up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.[2] As if that weren’t enough, Wicker also won seven games for the Newark Bears in 1937, considered to be the greatest minor-league team in history.[3]

Sold to the Dodgers in 1939, Wicker made a cameo appearance in Brooklyn two years later, but the rest of his career was spent playing or managing in the minors. He won back-to-back Sally League pennants as skipper of the Columbus, Georgia, Cardinals in 1946-47.

The fans were so impressed with his managing skills with that first team that they set aside a day to honor Wicker. The team won a pennant despite ranking seventh in the league in hitting and sixth in fielding and whose best pitcher won a mere seven games and whose best hitter batted just .298. “The fans figure the original Columbus had a cinch discovering America compared to Columbus Wicker’s discovery of first place,” an Associated Press reporter wrote.[I]

His last team, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, didn’t fare so well. It was mired in the basement when Wicker was fired in June 1954. He ended his baseball career as a scout for the Philadelphia Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.

Wicker never left the Kernersville area. That’s where he and his wife, Wilhelmina, raised their three children. That’s where he died in 1973, five years after being diagnosed with  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease had killed his former teammate Lou Gehrig, who gave the grim illness its popular name.

Footnotes
[1] Weaverville College was founded in 1851 by the local Sons of Temperance. The school was renamed in 1912 to honor Montraville Weaver who donated land for the first buildings. The Methodist Church merged it with Rutherford College in 1933 to create Brevard College in Brevard, NC. (Hill, Michael, “Weaver College.” NCPedia, 2006. https://www.ncpedia.org/weaver-college).
[2] The Hall of Famers on the 1936-39 Yankees: Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri, and Red Rolfe.
[3] The 1937 Bears took first place in the International League in May and never looked back, winning the pennant by more than 25 games. Though they lost the first three games at home, the Bears won the last four to take the Junior World Series. Twenty-seven of the 32 players who suited up for the Bears that season appeared in the major leagues.

Reference
[I] Fullerton, Hugh Jr. Associated Press. “Sports Roundup.” Nome (AK) Nugget, July 20, 1947.