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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Gulley, Tom

Primary Positions: Right field, pinch hitter
Birthplace: Garner

First, Middle Names: Thomas Jefferson
Date of Birth:  Dec. 25, 1899  Date and Place of Death: Nov. 24, 1966, St. Charles, AK
Burial: Roselawn Memorial Park, Little Rock, AK

High School: Tallahatchie Agricultural High School, Charleston, MS
College: Mississippi College, Clinton, MS

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-11, 178
Debut Year: 1923       Final Year: 1926          Years Played: 3
Teams and Years: Cleveland Indians, 1923-24; Chicago White Sox, 1926

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
25      58        12       10        9          0         .207     .303     .345     -0.1

Tom Gulley was born on Christmas Day and drowned in a freak accident on Thanksgiving 66 years later. In between, he had a brief major-league career and a more substantial one in the minors where he often challenged for batting titles. After baseball, he spent two decades in Arkansas politics, winning elections as a sheriff, alderman, tax collector, and judge.

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Wright, Taffy

Primary Position: Right field
Birthplace: Tabor City

First, Middle Names: Taft Shedron   Nickname: Taffy
Date of Birth:  Aug. 10, 1911  Date and Place of Death: Oct. 22, 1981, Orlando, FL
Burial: Meadowbrook Cemetery, Lumberton, NC

High School: Undetermined
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-10, 180
Debut Year: 1938       Final Year: 1949          Years Played: 9
Teams and Years: Washington Senators, 1938-39; Chicago White Sox, 1940-42, 1946-48; Philadelphia Athletics, 1948

Career Summary
G           AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
1029   3583    1115    465      553      38        .311     .376     .423     16.7

Awards/Honors: Boys of Summer Top 100

To be blunt about it, Taft Wright tended to look more like the fat guy at the end of the bar than a ball player. Throughout his 20-year career in professional baseball, he endured all the adjectives sportswriters could conjure: Tubby, stocky, plump, round, rotund, roly-poly. One writer noted he was built like a “beer can.” Burton Hawkins of the old Evening Star in Washington got it right, though, when he wrote in 1939, “Taft Wright will plaster major-league pitching as long as he can waddle up to the plate.”[I]

For most of the nine years that he played in the big leagues, Wright was one of the top hitters in baseball. No less a judge than Hall of Famer Bob Feller ranked Wright among the most-dangerous hitters he faced in the American League, along with Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Gehringer. In 75 career at-bats against Feller, Wright hit .320, about 100 points higher than the league average.[II]

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Graham, Moonlight

Primary Position: Right field
Birthplace: Fayetteville

First, Last Names: Archibald Wright  Nicknames: Moonlight, Doc
Date of Birth:  Nov. 12, 1877 Date and Place of Death: Aug. 25, 1965, Chisholm, MN
Burial: Calvary Cemetery, Rochester, MN

High School: Davidson High School, Charlotte, NC
College: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC; University of Maryland-Baltimore, Baltimore, MD

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-11, 170
Debut Year: 1905       Final Year: 1905          Years Played: 1
Team and Years: New York Giant, 1905

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
1          0          0          0          0          0          0          .000     .000     0.0

Few baseball fans have ever heard of Johnny O’Connor, Henry Stein, Eddie Hunter, Terry Lyons or any of the other 43 non-pitchers who played in one major-league game but never got a chance to hit. They were in the big leagues just long enough for that proverbial cup of coffee. Their dreams merely patted them on their heads. All but one were quickly forgotten. Because of a mysterious nickname, that exception has achieved baseball immortality.

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Deal, Lindsay

Primary Positions: Right field, pinch hitter
Birthplace: Lenoir

First, Middle Names: Fred Lindsay
Date of Birth:  Sept. 3, 1911    Date and Place of Death: April 18, 1979, Little Rock, AK
Burial: Pine Crest Memorial Park, Alexander, AK.

High School: Oak Hill High School, Lenoir
College: Rutherford College, Rutherford College, NC; Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-0, 175
Debut Year: 1939       Final Year: 1939          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Brooklyn Dodgers, 1939

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
4          7          0          0          0          0      .000     .000     .000     -0.2

Though he played just three weeks in the major leagues, Lindsay Deal shocked the barons of baseball and captured headlines on sports pages around the country by persuading the sport’s authoritarian commissioner, who had a soft spot for minor leaguers, to come to his aid in a contract dispute with a major-league owner. Even with such help, Deal lost the argument and may have killed his career in the process by earning the owners’ lasting enmity. Though he was an excellent defensive outfielder who hit .300 in the minor leagues, Deal only got that one, brief shot at the big leagues at a time when players routinely journeyed to and from the minors.

He quit after 13 years in professional baseball and became a law-enforcement officer in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was positioned to write what might be the most important letter in the history of the Baltimore Orioles.

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