Primary Positions: Right field, pinch hitter
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
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.
Thomas Jefferson Gulley was born in Garner in 1899, the fifth of Robert and Annie Gulley’s seven children. The family moved to Hammond, Louisiana, by the time Gulley was nine and then to Brookhaven, Mississippi. He attended Tallahatchie Agricultural High School, a boarding school about 200 miles from home in Charleston, Mississippi. We don’t know if he played baseball there.
He was the leading hitter for Mississippi College, a private Baptist school in Clinton, and a star running back on the football team.
The Cleveland Indians invited Gulley to their spring training camp in Dallas, Texas, in 1922 and told him to come back when he finished college. He signed with the team after graduating the following year and appeared in two games. He was sent to Lakeland, Florida, and led the Florida State League in hitting in 1924. He appeared in eight more games for the Indians that year.
After hitting .378 for Little Rock, Arkansas, in the Southern Association the following season, Gulley found himself with the Chicago White Sox in 1926. He had his last and longest stint in the majors: Sixteen games and thirty-five at bats. He hit just .229.
Gulley spent the next six years in the minors, most of them with Montreal, Canada, in the International League. Even Canadian summers were too cold for a Southern boy, he said when first joining the Royals. Gulley acclimated quickly, however. He hit better than .320 while in Canada and became a feared slugger.
Failing eyesight that doctors attributed to a sinus condition forced Gulley to retire in 1932.
He returned to Little Rock where he had lived since at least 1930. Gulley had married a local girl, Donnie Holiman, two years earlier. They would have two children.
Gulley opened a drugstore and coached youth teams. The store and its soda fountain quickly became the hangout for every kid in town.
He won his first election in 1933 as a town alderman. He won successive terms until he was appointed deputy sheriff in 1941. Elected sheriff five years later, Gulley would be the head lawman in Pulaski County for twelve years. He was elected county tax collector in 1960 and county judge six years later.
A couple of weeks after that election, on Thanksgiving Day, Gulley and a friend went on a deer hunting trip. The car he was driving rolled down the ramp to the St. Charles, AK, ferry and across the 60-foot-long barge before crashing through a restraining cable and into the White River. The friend jumped from the station wagon before it plunged into the water. Fishermen found Gulley’s body a week later about three miles downstream.