Goodman, Billy

Player Name: Goodman, Billy
Positions: Second base, first base, third base
Birthplace: Concord

First, Middle Names: William Dale
Date of Birth:  March 22, 1926       Date and Place of Death: Oct. 1, 1984, Sarasota, FL
Burial: Mount Olivet Methodist Church Cemetery, Concord

High School: Winecoff High School, Winecoff, NC
College: Did not attend

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-11, 165
Debut Year: 1947       Final Year: 1962          Years Played: 16
Teams and Years: Boston Red Sox, 1947-57; Baltimore Orioles, 1957; Chicago White Sox, 1958-1961; Houston Colt 45s, 1962

Awards: NC Sports Hall of Fame, 1969; batting title, 1950; All-Star, 1949, 1952

 Career Summary
G               AB          H            R          RBI      HR       BA.       OBP.     SLG.      WAR
1623      5644     1691    807    591      19        .300     .376      .378       26.9

Billy Goodman played everywhere on the infield and most spots in the outfield during his 16-year career. That he could play so many positions and play them well surprised most veteran baseball people. To many of  them, the guy didn’t even look like a ballplayer, let alone like the most versatile one to ever put on a uniform. At 5-foot, 11 inches and maybe 165 pounds, Goodman was “built like an undernourished ribbon clerk,” noted the Saturday Evening Post.[I] He looked almost frail and certainly out of place.

“I’ve never seen a ballplayer like Goodman. He fools you more than any other player I can remember,” said Jimmy Brown, a fellow North Carolinian and an All-Star second baseman who first saw Goodman when he managed in the minors after his playing days. “The first time I saw him he was playing the outfield. He didn’t look like an outfielder but he could go and get them.  Then I saw him playing shortstop. He didn’t field like a shortstop but he dug them out of the dirt. He didn’t throw like a shortstop but I didn’t see him make a bad throw. And he always got his man.”[II]

Most so-called utility players are known primarily for their defensive skills, but Goodman was even better at the plate then he was in the field. He wasn’t a power hitter – he hit only 19 home runs in his career – but the little lefty sprayed the ball all over the field on the way to a career .300 batting average, tied for fourth-highest among North Carolina natives with at least 1,000 lifetime at bats. He’s a leader in nine other offensive categories as well. In one of the most-unusual seasons in baseball history, Goodman played six different positions in 1950 and won a batting title while doing it. The two-time All-Star was also almost impossible to strike out. He had more than a 1,100 at bats during the 1953 and ’54 seasons, for instance, and struck out only 26 times.

Joe McCarthy had seen some pretty fair players during his run as the New York Yankees’ skipper. Stars like Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Dickey and Frank Crosetti had helped him win eight pennants. One could say that Marse Joe had seen them all. Then, he came out of retirement in 1948 to manage the Boston Red Sox and first laid eyes on Billy Goodman. “Look at that boy,” he said admiringly of the rookie that spring. “He’s all ballplayer.”[III]

The second of three brothers, William Dale Goodman was born in 1926 in Winecoff, a small community that once existed north of Concord in Cabarrus County. Named after one of the area’s prominent families, it has since disappeared amid the clutter of Interstate 85. The Goodman boys grew up on their father Fred’s 300-acre dairy farm. The family’s roots ran deep in that part of Cabarrus. The boys’ grandfather, C.J. Goodman, owned the ancestral homestead up the road.

Goodman was a three-sport star at Winecoff High School.[1] Although he was voted the best all-around athlete in the school as a senior in 1943, he wasn’t particularly noted for his baseball skills. He was the high scorer and captain of the basketball team for two seasons and a star halfback on the football team. As a baseball player, he was “steady and dangerous, but never spectacular,” a former teammate remembered.[IV]

It was during childhood that Goodman began honing his skills at various positions on the diamond. Small kids, he once explained, play more if they’re willing to go wherever needed. As a senior in high school, he often pitched one game and caught the next.

He played semipro ball for a season after he graduated and in 1944 signed with the Crackers in Atlanta, Georgia. Playing second base and in the outfield, Goodman was an All-Star for his first professional team, hitting .336 and leading the Class A Southern Association in runs scored.

Inducted into the Navy after the season, Goodman spent the remainder of World War II serving in the western Pacific.[2] He was discharged in June 1946 and was back with the Crackers a month later, picking up where he left off. He hit .389 in those last 86 games and .418 in the playoff.

The Red Sox bought his contract the following February for $75,000, or almost $900,000 today. He got his first look at major-league pitching during an intrasquad game that spring against Boo Ferris, who had won 25 games the previous season. Goodman reached for an outside pitch with “the ease of a grocer’s clerk reaching for a package of biscuits” and ripped a line double to left, reported the Sporting News.[V] Though he made his major-league debut in 1947, Goodman played in only a dozen games for the Red Sox before being sent to their Class AAA club in Louisville, Kentucky, where he hit .340.

Goodman made the big-league team in 1948 but cracking the starting lineup was a tall order. The Red Sox were a talented bunch that featured perennial All-Stars all over the field.[3] As would be the case for most of his career, Goodman didn’t have a starting position when the season began, but he was soon filling in for the injured Bobby Doerr at second base. He moved to first on May 25 after an injury sidelined another teammate and remained there for the rest of the season, finishing with a .310 average.

Over the next decade, Goodman became Boston’s one-man bench, competently filling in for injured or slumping teammates at numerous positions. The exception was 1950, one of the few seasons he started with an assigned role. He was slated to be the Red Sox’s first baseman, but irony intervened. He fractured his ankle early in the season, and Walt Dropo was called up from Louisville to take his place. Dropo started crushing homers at a steady pace and would end up leading the American League with 144 runs batted in. He would be named the league’s Rookie of Year.

When he returned after a few weeks, Goodman once again had nowhere to play. Then, the Red Sox’s stars started dropping with alarming regularity, but Goodman was there to step in: for Doerr at second, for Vern Stephens at short, for Johnny Pesky at third, even for the great Ted Williams in left. The loss of Williams, who broke his elbow during the All-Star Game, was considered a mortal blow to the team’s pennant hopes. “But Billy the Kid outWilliamsed Williams,” wrote Arthur Daley of The New York Times, “again giving the team that tremendous inspirational lift he always furnishes.”[VI]

He was hitting .355 by the first of August and was the top hitter in the American League. “I don’t care where I play, as long as I play,” he said.[VII]

Steve O’Neill, who had replaced McCarthy as the team’s manager during the season, had never seen anyone like Goodman. “I think he’d be able to pitch if I asked him to pitch,” he said. “He’s the marvel of baseball.”[VIII]

No marvel, however, could long take the place of the Splendid Splinter. Goodman would again be without a job when Williams returned in mid-September and without the required at bats to qualify for the batting crown. Pesky, though, made it easy on O’Neill. In an act of selflessness rare then and unheard of today, he volunteered to give up his position. “I’ll gladly sit on the bench if it means we will win the pennant,” Pesky, who was hitting .314 at the time, explained. “Steve (O’Neill) owes it to Bill to play him after what he’s done to keep the team up there.”[IX]

Goodman ended the season at third base. Though the Red Sox didn’t win the pennant – they came in third – the super utility man won the batting title going away with a .354 average. He finished second to the Yankees’ Phil Rizzuto as the league’s Most Valuable Player.

During his decade in Boston, Goodman was an All-Star twice but never played in a World Series. That happened in 1959 with the Chicago White Sox. He had been traded two years earlier to the Baltimore Orioles, with whom he had played a season before ending up in Chicago. Goodman platooned at first base for the “Go-Go” White Sox, which won their first pennant since the Black Sox scandal of 1919.[4] He batted .350 during the season and played in five of the six Series games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and got three hits, all singles.

Used sparingly during the next two seasons, Goodman angrily left the White Sox training camp after a salary dispute in 1962 and signed with the expansion Houston Colt 45s. He hit .255 in a utility role and was released at the end of the year.

After a season as the player/manager for the Durham, North Carolina, Bulls, Goodman spent 12 years as a minor-league instructor and scout for several teams. He retired from baseball in 1976.

Goodman had married Margaret Little, his childhood sweetheart, in 1947. They had moved to Sarasota, Florida, three years later where they had raised their two children. In the offseasons, Goodman would wake his daughter up for a breakfast he always made, pick her up at school, take her fishing or hunting and allow her to pal around with his close baseball friends, such as Pesky and Williams. “He was totally my idol, the coolest man I’ve ever known,” Kathy Goodman Simpkins remembered years later.[X]

After retiring, he continued to run his successful commercial real-estate business and to manage his 30-acre orange grove. He also helped Margaret with her antiques business. He became ill with multiple myeloma in 1983 and died a year later. Margaret was once asked if she ever thought of remarrying. “Oh no,” she said. “We grew up together and there’s one love in a lifetime, and I had him.”[XI]

She died in 2011.

Footnotes
[1] The first school opened on the site of the present elementary school in 1877. Martin Henderson Winecoff donated the land, cut the timber and helped build the school so that his children and those of his neighbors would have a local school to attend. C.J. Goodman, Billy’s grandfather, also donated land and provided housing for the teachers. The school has been a high school, middle school and elementary school. https://www.cabarrus.k12.nc.us/domain/1112.
[2] Billy Goodman was stationed in Ulithi, an atoll in the Caroline Islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean so tiny and remote that it was often left off maps. It’s made up of 40 islets almost 1,000 miles east of the Philippines. They total about two square miles of land, surrounding a lagoon. Most barely rise above the sea and only four are inhabited. The deep, calm anchorage afforded by the lagoon attracted the Navy, which made it a major staging area for in the final year of WWII.
[3] The Red Sox All-Stars during the 10 years Billy Goodman was on the team, 1947-56, and the number of times they were chosen: Left fielder, Ted Williams, 9;  second baseman Bobby Doerr, 4; shortstop Vern Stephens, 4; center fielder Dom DiMaggio, 4; catcher Birdie Tebbetts, 2; and right fielder Al Zarilla, 1.
[4] In the Black Sox Scandal , eight players with the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. In response, team owners appointed Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the major leagues’ first commissioner with absolute authority to restore the sport’s integrity. Landis banished the accused players from baseball.

References
[I] Anderson, Ron. “Billy Goodman.” Society of American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/billy-goodman/.
[II] Hurwitz, Hy. “Jimmy Brown Sings Praises of Goodman and Babe Martin.” Boston Globe, April 9, 1948.
[III] Marin, Whitney. Associated Press. “Versatile Bill Goodman Keeping Bosox in Race.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, August 23, 1950.
[IV] Anderson.
[V] Anderson.
[VI] Daley, Arthur. “Sports of the Times.” The New York Times, February 2, 1951.
[VII] Ibid.
[VIII] Allen, Eddie. “Sports Asides.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, August 24, 1950.
[IX] Holbrook, Bob. “Pesky Suggested Goodman Stay In on Ted’s Return.” Boston Globe, September 15, 1950.
[X] “Art of the Red Sox: Baseball Great Billy Goodman Part of Rockwell Masterpiece.” Salisbury (NC) Post, May 11, 2014.
[XI] Anderson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fonville, Chad

Position: Second base, shortstop
Birthplace: Jacksonville

First, Middle Names: Chad Everette
Date of Birth:  March 5, 1971
Current Residence: Jacksonville

High School: White Oak High School, Jacksonville
College: Louisburg College, Louisburg, NC

Bats: S             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-6, 155
Debut Year: 1995       Final Year: 1999          Years Played: 4
Teams and Years: Montreal Expos, 1995; Los Angeles Dodgers, 1995-97; Chicago White Sox, 1997; Boston Red Sox, 1999

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
226   546    133     80       31        0          .244     .302     .269     0.0

In the City of Angels, Chad Fonville seemed heaven sent in the summer of 1995. He had spent most of his career in the remotest reaches of the minors. Few fans in Los Angeles had ever heard of him, but they soon loved the little guy who came off the bench to provide the spark the Dodgers needed to win their division. He hustled, swiped bases, got big hits, and exhibited a genuine enthusiasm for the game.

If heaven sent him, opposing pitchers dispatched him. Fed a constant diet of breaking balls, Fonville floundered the following year. His batting average plummeted. He was in the minors again before the season ended. Except for a few brief excursions back to the major leagues, that’s where he would remain until his retirement. He has spent the years since teaching, coaching and passing on his love of baseball to another generation.

Chad Everette Fonville was born in Jacksonville in 1971 to Charlie and Mary Yvonne Fonville. He was an all-conference baseball, basketball, and soccer player at White Oak High School and led the soccer team to a state championship in 1988.

Fonville attended Louisburg College, a private, two-year school in Louisburg, North Carolina, on a baseball scholarship. The switch-hitting shortstop hit .375 as a freshman in 1991 on a team that won 44 games and was ranked tenth in the nation among junior colleges. He was rated in the top 20 of junior-college players by Baseball America the following year when the San Francisco Giants chose him in the eleventh round of the amateur draft.

He spent the next three years on the lowest teams in the Giants’ farm system. Fonville hit over .300 at each stop and was among the leaders in stolen bases. The Giants, though,  never put Fonville on their major-league roster. That made him eligible in 1994 to be taken by another team. The Expos did, and he appeared in 14 games in Montreal before being waived in June and chosen by the Dodgers. According to the rules, such players have to remain on the major-league team for the season or be returned.[1]

Fonville was pressed into service on June 17 in Chicago after an injury to the Dodgers’ shortstop. He went four-for five. The ecstatic rookie called his mother after the game. He went three-for-four the next day and impressed Manager Tommy Lasorda with his speed, beating out two slow rollers. “The little guy might be there tomorrow,” he said of his new, 5-foot, six-inch shortstop. “He’s a streak of lightning going down the baseline.”[I]

He moved into the leadoff spot after slumping Delino DeShields went down with a leg ailment, and he continued to hit. Though his fielding was erratic, Fonville was batting .280 by mid-August as the Dodgers took over first place in their division. They had been a fourth-place team playing .500 ball when Fonville arrived. Lasorda even began treating the kid as his good-luck charm, removing Fonville’s hat and rubbing and kissing the top of his head when the team needed a big hit. What others saw as an exhibition of the manager’s over-the-top Dodger Blue spirit, the most-prominent black newspaper in town interpreted as a racial insult.

If Fonville minded, he didn’t complain publicly. He seemed to enjoy being the least likely success story in baseball. He had 12 at bats with the Expos when they put him on waivers. Before then, his career had consisted of 251 Class A games spread over three seasons. “I play hard every inning,” Fonville said. “I was blessed to get the opportunity to play here and I’m trying to take advantage of it. I’m having fun winning and being involved in a pennant race.”[II]

Though his future looked bright when the season ended, those four months would be the highlight of his major-league career. He was a player without a position when he reported to spring training in 1996. The Dodgers had resigned DeShields to play second and had signed free agent Greg Gagne for short. Fonville, Lasorda said, would be a “super” utility player.

Coaches lectured him during the exhibition season about being sullen and pouting over his status. He conceded that training camp was difficult, but he insisted that he was happy. “I’m not going to lie. It’s been tough. It’s not an easy job coming off the bench,” he said. “But I knew my role coming in. I knew I’d be a utility player.”[III]

Teammates’ injuries and slumps during the season once again gave him his chances, but opposing pitchers were ready the second time around. They were unrelenting with their breaking balls in the dirt that Fonville kept missing. He went into long hitting tailspins. That resulted in reduced playing time. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in September.

He spent two seasons in the minors before appearing in three games for the Boston Red Sox in 1999. He retired two years later after a couple of more minor-league seasons. “My body was changing and I was getting older,” Fonville said. “I was just playing for the love of the game. I just played until I couldn’t play and that was it.”[IV]

Fonville returned to Jacksonville in 2006 where has coached baseball at area high schools. “Baseball has given me a lot, and now it’s my turn to give back in any way I can,” said Fonville.[v] 

Footnote
[1] The Montreal Expos chose Fonville in the Rule 5 Draft, which has been held every December since the current rule was established in 1985. The rule, with roots that reach back to 1892, allows players more opportunities to crack big-league rosters and prevents teams from stashing talented players in the minor leagues. While tweaks have made to the format over the years, the basic premise of the Rule 5 Draft has remained the same over the past five decades. Players who have spent multiple years in the minors (the current threshold is four or five seasons, depending on the age they signed their first contract) that are not protected on their affiliate’s 40-man roster can be selected by another team in the Rule 5 Draft.  A player selected in the draft is immediately added to his new team’s active roster, where he must remain for the entire season.

References
[I] Daley, Ken. “Fonville Making Persuasive Case for Playing Time.” Los Angeles Daily News, June 19, 1995.
[II] Malamud, Allan. “Notes on a Scorecard.” Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1995.
[III] It’s Hard to Tell, But Fonville’s Happy.” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1996.
[IV] Miller, Chris. “Fonville: Baseball Had Been Good to Me.” Jacksonville (NC) Daily News, April 27, 2013.
[V] Lingafelt, Lance Cpl. Jared. “Former MLB Baseball Player Gives Back to Community.” Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, June 19, 2014. https://www.dvidshub.net/news/133829/former-mlb-baseball-player-gives-back-community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich, Woody

Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Morganton

First, Middle Names: Woodrow Earl
Date of Birth: March 9, 1916    Date and Place of Death: April 18, 1983, Valdese, NC
Burial: South Mountain Baptist Church Cemetery, Morganton

High School: Morganton High School
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-2, 185
Debut Year: 1939       Final Year: 1944          Years Played: 4
Teams and Years: Boston Red Sox, 1939-41; Boston Braves, 1944

 Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
33      6          6          0         5.06     117.1  42        0.5

Woody Rich had all the makings of a great Depression-era newspaper hero. He was a shy farm boy from the hills of North Carolina – the kind of kid sportswriters ended up calling “Rube.” He had come out of nowhere with lightning in his right arm. Before he had even thrown a ball in a regulation, big-league game, the sports scribes primed the pump by comparing him to the legendary pitchers of yore. The lanky string bean, it seems, was being groomed to take his place among the pantheon of star athletes who had been born and had lived on the sports pages – Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Seabiscuit. Times were tough, and readers thirsted for heroes.

Woodrow Earl Rich came along at the right time. He had indeed been born on a farm outside Morganton in Burke County in 1916. He was fifth in the batting order of David and Callie’s eight children.

His high-school years are murky. Some newspapers reported at the time he debuted in the majors that he had pitched for the two years he attended Morganton High School. Others note that he lasted only a semester before dropping out to work for a hosiery mill and play for a semipro team. Paying jobs during the Depression were paying jobs, after all. That would seem to agree with Rich’s military discharge records that list the eighth grade as his highest level of education. To confuse matters even more, a profile of Rich compiled by the Society of American Baseball Research notes that he graduated from high school in 1936, though no source is cited.

Of this there is no doubt: he married Lucy Durline Walker, a minister’s daughter, a year earlier when he was playing for a semipro team in Valdese, North Carolina. In was there that the myth begins to take form with the tale of his discovery by the Boston Red Sox. It has it all: the kindly club executive, the touching act of charity, and the  sense of wonder at first seeing the rising, unknown star. The details varied with the telling, but it went something like this: Billy Evans, a former umpire, directed the Red Sox farm system. He ran into another former umpire or maybe it was a former player on one of his scouting trips. Anyway, the guy was down on his luck and Evans, known as a soft touch in an industry famous for its hard dealings with players, gave him $5. A year later, the grateful ex-ump — or was it ex-player? – wrote Evans about this kid pitching for Valdese who was, according to one newspaper account, “quite a propeller of the pellet.”[I]

Evans went south to look for himself. “You can knock me over with a five-dollar bill if this kid hasn’t got the motion of a Grover Cleveland Alexander or a Dizzy Dean,” he recalled. “He’s as loose as a goose.”[1][II]

And so it started.

Evans signed Rich on the spot, of course. The kid had no formal training as a pitcher. His father, who knew nothing about baseball, said his son learned the game by playing with “the Negro folk” at home.[III] All that considered, Rich’s first season as a professional with Boston’s lowest-level farm club in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1937 wasn’t so bad – 12-15 with a 4.42 earned-run average.

Evans thought he was ready to move up to Class A Little Rock, Arkansas, but Travelers’ Manager Doc Prothro wasn’t so sure. He kept Rich on the bench for the first three weeks of the 1938 season. Evans, though, kept pestering him. Prothro finally relented and sent Rich into a game after his starter had been rocked for five runs. The bases were loaded with no out when Rich took over. He retired the side with no further damage and didn’t allow a run the rest of the way, allowing the Travelers to come back and win. He won 19 games that year, including a no-hitter against the powerful Atlanta Crackers, who featured two of the league’s leading hitters.

The stage was set.

Rich grabbed the spotlight in the spring of 1939 at the Red Sox’s training camp in Sarasota, Florida. He didn’t allow a run in his first two appearances, and his smooth, sidearm motion reminded Coach Tom Daly of the guy he used to catch with the Chicago Cubs a decade earlier. “When Woody started to loosen up and put a little something on the ball with that sidearm delivery of his, I saw ol’ Alex all over again,” Daly said, referring to Alexander. “Their styles are almost identical.”[IV]

The scribes needed no further invitations. They started writing stories about this sensational rookie in Sarasota – strike that, make it the best pitching prospect since the Big Train himself, Walter Johnson.

Rich roomed that spring with another Red Sox rookie with a future, a bean pole of an outfielder named Ted Williams. While Williams was a brash, loud-talking city kid from San Diego, Rich was the quiet farm boy. “He’s a man of one word,” a reporter noted. “His favorite monosyllables are ‘Yeah’ and ‘nope.’”[v]

But when he let loose, there were gems like this: “When I wasn’t plowing, chopping wood or hoeing corn, I used to throw a lot of stones at snakes and birds,” Rich told one of the writers that spring. “Maybe that’s how I developed my arm. But if, as you say, I’ve got big, powerful-looking wrists I reckon I got them from hoeing that corn and chopping that wood. We used to make bats out of hickory logs, but maybe we didn’t have enough bats. But we had plenty of birds and snakes.”[VI]

Or this reaction when seeing Yankee Stadium for the first time: “Garsh!”[VII] 

The rube from Palookaville who becomes a star has a long and treasured history in baseball. Writers reminded their readers that no one had ever heard of Elba, Nebraska, before Alexander came along or Humboldt, Kansas, before Johnson. Their successor Lefty Grove, then dominating the American League, came from Lonaconing, Maryland, which was down the road from Nikep somewhere up in the mountains. “Morgantown,” as it was often misspelled, could be next.

Rich did his part when the season opened, winning four of his first six games. He was among the leading pitchers in the league when he took the mound on May 27, but he had to leave the game after hurting his arm while making a throw to first base. The injury wasn’t thought to be serious, but he couldn’t raise his arm within a few days. He didn’t get another start until July 4 but couldn’t survive the first inning. He lasted only three innings two weeks later. After a few more rough outings, the Red Sox in early August sent Rich to their farm club in Louisville, Kentucky, where he remained for the rest of the season.

The Red Sox gave him second and third chances in 1940 and ’41 but he never regained the form that reminded people of Ol’ Alex. The city’s National League entry, the Braves, called him up in 1944, hoping he’d shine during the talent-depleted war years. He didn’t. He was shipped out after seven games.

Rich’s major-league days were over but his baseball career was just beginning. His arm was strong enough to allow him to pitch 14 more years in the minor leagues, often quite effectively. After a one-year stint with the Marine Corps at the end of World War II, Rich spent the late 1940s with the Class D Anniston, Alabama, Rams. He won 19 games in 1947 on a last-place team and led the league in strikeouts. He made the All-Star team the following season and won two games in the league playoffs. The appreciative Rams held a Woody Rich Night in his honor at their home ballyard in 1949. Not much later, Rich abruptly left the team to pitch for a semipro club in Iowa.

His arm obviously wasn’t the problem. His weight, however, may have been. Rich’s waistline expanded as his career lengthened. The 155-pound kid who reported to Clarksdale in 1937 routinely tipped the scales at 230 a decade later when he became “Big” Woody Rich. “Portly” and “bulky” were also common adjectives. He was prominently featured in a 1947 article in Baseball Magazine about players with weight problems. “One of the most tragic cases in the memory of the writer is that of Woody Rich,” Hub Miller wrote. “But Rich’s fame was short-lived. He did stay with the club long enough to win a few games and, at times, showed flashes of greatness. But the boy had such an uncontrollable appetite that he soon was fat and well beyond big-league hurling condition. It was not long before he even had trouble winning in the higher minors.”[VIII]

Approaching 40, it was the “venerable” Rich who led the Hi-Toms of High Point and Thomasville, North Carolina, to back-to-back Carolina League championships in 1955 and ’56. He won 49 games in his three years with the Hi-Toms, but they would be his last productive seasons. Rich retired in 1958 at age 42.

He lived with his wife and their daughter, Martha, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he was an auto mechanic. They returned to Burke County in 1968 where they lived in a log cabin near Valdese. He died in 1983 of lung cancer.

Footnote
[1] Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of the pitching stars of baseball’s Deadball Era, won 373 games in a 20-year career that took him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Dizzy Dean, another Hall of Famer, was a four-time All-Star who led the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s.

References
[I] Hurwitz, Hy. “What About It.” Boston (MA) Globe, January 31, 1939.

[II] Ibid.
[III] Armour, Mark. “Woody Rich.” Society for American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/woody-rich/.
[IV] Moore, Gerry. “Woody Rich Reminds Tom Daly of Old Alex.” Boston (MA) Globe, March 9, 1939.
[V] Cuddy, Jack. United Press International. “Young Tar Heel Arrives in Big City and – Garsh.” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), April 21, 1939.
[VI] Armour.
[VII] Cuddy.
[VIII] Armour.

 

 

 

Bradley, Tom

Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Asheville

First, Middle Names: Thomas William
Date of Birth:  March 16, 1947
Current Residence: Barboursville, WV

High School: Falls Church High School, Falls Church, VA
College: University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-2, 180
Debut Year: 1969       Final Year: 1975          Years Played: 7
Teams and Years: California Angels, 1969-70; Chicago White Sox, 1971-72; San Francisco Giants, 1973-75

 Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
183    55      61        2          3.72     1017.2 691      10.1

Tom Bradley is almost certainly the only major-league pitcher who could read The Aeneid in its original Latin. He could also speak Greek and was such a nonstop conversationalist in his native English, always buzzing about looking for someone to talk to, that his teammates once playfully waved flyswatters at him in the clubhouse as if warding off a bothersome insect.

In a sport where most players don’t attend or finish college, Bradley was a scholar, but he was also a pretty decent pitcher. The big righthander was a durable workhorse, logging more than a thousand innings from 1970-73, his most-productive seasons. His 3.72 lifetime earned-run average, or ERA, is 19th among North Carolina pitchers with at least 500 innings in the major leagues. Had he played for better teams, Bradley would have likely ended with a winning record.

His playing days cut short by injury, he spent almost 30 years as a collegiate manager and minor-league coach. Even in retirement, he helped coach his son’s high-school team.

Born in Asheville in 1947, Thomas William Bradley was an infant when his parents, Dorothy and Claude, moved to Falls Church, Virginia, where they worked for the federal government. Claude, an accomplished amateur pitcher, became his only child’s primary instructor when the youngster started Little League. Bradley played in the youth leagues and at Falls Church High School.

He entered the University of Maryland at College Park in 1966 on a baseball scholarship and developed into one of the best pitchers the school has ever produced. He won 10 games in his two years on the varsity squad and his 1.32 career ERA is still the Atlantic Coast Conference record. As a junior, he stuck out 65 batters in 47 innings while leading the Terrapins to what was then their best record in school history (19-6-1). For the second consecutive year, he was named to the conference’s All-ACC first team.

Bradley was also a star in the classroom. He was the school’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1968 and would return to the university after his professional baseball career began to finish his studies. He graduated cum laude in 1972 with a major in Latin and a minor in Greek.

The California Angels drafted Bradley in the seventh round of the 1968 amateur draft and he spent the following season pitching for every team in their system, including a couple of innings with the parent club late in the year.

For most of 1970, he played for the Angels’ Class AAA franchise in Hawaii, compiling an 11-1 record with a 2.03 ERA on the pennant-winning Islanders. His manager, Chuck Tanner, took the helm of the Chicago White Sox later that year in what would be his first stop on a 19-year career as a major-league manager. One of the first things Tanner did was engineer a trade for his Islanders’ ace, whom he considered one of the best young pitchers in baseball.[I]

Tanner had his work cut out for him. Since their pennant-winning team of 1959, White Sox fans had little to cheer about at old, dreary Comiskey Park. A few teams since then had finished second or third, but most had been awful. The previous season’s version had lost 106 games, finishing at the bottom of its division. Its best pitcher had lost 17 games.

The 26-year-old Bradley gave those long-suffering fans hope. He started the 1971 season with a flourish, tossing 20 consecutive scoreless innings at one point. Entering May, he was 6-4 with a 1.67 ERA for a team struggling to get out of the basement. Only Oakland’s Vida Blue, the league’s eventual Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player, was better. With a bit more run support and a couple of breaks here and there, Bradley could have easily won 11 games. “The one thing to remember about baseball is that it’s a team sport,” he noted philosophically. “The pitcher doesn’t really win or lose. The team does. It’s a team effort that wins.”[II]

In the end, his team wasn’t very good, losing four more games than it won. As its reflection, Bradley ended up breaking even at 15-15, but he was among the league leaders in games started (39), shutouts (6), innings pitched (285.2) and strikeouts (206).

Short of pitching in 1972, Tanner flaunted convention by relying on three starting pitchers, instead of the usual four. Bradley, Wilbur Wood and Stan Bahnsen started 130 of Chicago’s 154 games in a strike-shortened season.[1] They got three days’ rest between starts, though Bradley pitched with just two days seven times. An unproven Rich Gossage was one of the pitchers who picked up the slack when needed.[2]

Bradley roomed with the 19-year-old, rookie fireballer and gave him his famous nickname. “He pitched in a game early in the season, and I think he threw like two or three innings, and I looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘Look at all the goose eggs,’” he explained. “This was one of his first appearances in the big leagues. Rich kind of had a gangly motion, all elbows and arms and legs, which must have been awful tough on hitters, so I put two and two together and started calling him “Goose.”[III]

The three-pitcher strategy paid off. The White Sox won 20 more games than it lost and finished in second place, just 5.5 games behind the A’s. Bradley pitched more than 260 innings and won another 15 games.

That didn’t prevent Chicago from trading him for outfield help at the end of the season. Bradley learned of the trade to the San Francisco Giants while in the White Sox business office where he had volunteered to call potential season-ticket holders. “I come to work to sell tickets and before the cream was in my coffee I was in San Francisco,” he said.[IV]

Though blessed with sluggers Bobby Bonds, Willie McCovey and Dave Kingman, the Giants’ thin starting pitching consisted of a young Ron Bryant and an old Juan Marichal. “The way I see it,” a Jewish fan wrote in the local newspaper, “it’s the old ‘Spahn and Sain and two days of rain,’ only in this case it’s ‘Bradley and Bryant and pray to Mount Zion.’”[V]

Hobbled by an ankle injury that sidelined him for a month, Bradley won 13 games in 1973, but his ERA was a full run higher than it had been in Chicago.

In a windy, dank Candlestick Park on May 17 of the next season, Manager Charlie Fox called on Bradley in the ninth inning to finish a game against the San Diego Padres that his team was losing 5-3. Bradley had started two days earlier. He was ineffective, giving up two runs. Ominously, his pitching shoulder hurt after the game. “They asked me to pitch in relief and like a dummy I said yes,” he recalled years later. “I felt something pop in my shoulder and I wasn’t the same again.”[VI]

He kept pitching, changing his delivery to compensate for the pain. That led to a more-serious rotator cuff injury that would ultimately end his career.

Bradley was so bad at the start of the 1975 season that no team was interested in picking him up on waivers. Horace Stoneham, the Giants’ owner, told him he could go down to Class AAA Phoenix, Arizona, or be released. Bradley chose Phoenix. On the plane ride there he told a newspaper columnist: “It was a blow to my ego, my pride. But I realized it could have been a lot worse. I couldn’t even get picked up on waivers. The Giants could have released me. But Mr. Stoneham was willing to stick with me. He was very good to me.”[VII]

He was recalled in June and made his last major-league start two months later. He retired at the end of the season.

After a year as a pitching coach for a small college in California, Bradley became the head coach at Jacksonville University in Florida. He developed the school’s baseball program over the next 12 seasons, winning 432 games in the process. Three of his teams won 40 games and none won fewer than 30. He was the winningest coach in the school’s history at the time of his induction into its Hall of Fame in 1996.

When he wasn’t on the university’s ballfield, Bradley was back in its classroom studying for a master’s degree in athletics teaching, which he earned in 1980.

Coaching his alma mater was the next goal. He realized it in 1991 when he became the Terps’ head coach. He won a school record 29 games the first season, but it was downhill from there. The school didn’t renew his contract after 10 years and a losing record, though it would induct him into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.

Bradley ended his baseball career as a minor-league pitching coach, first for the Padres and then for the Toronto Blue Jays.

He retired in 2010 and lives with his wife, Kathy, a retired schoolteacher, in Barboursville, West Virginia. They have two children.

Footnotes
[1] The 1972 season was the first to have games cancelled by a player strike over pension and salary arbitration. The strike erased the first week and a half of the season, and the leagues decided to not make up the games..
[2] Rich “Goose” Gossage debuted with the Chicago White Sox in 1972 and would become one of the dominating closers of modern baseball. He saved 310 games in a 22-year career and was an All-Star nine times. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

References
[I] Borsch, Fred. “Bradley Writes Prize Thesis as Islander Pitching Scholar,” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), July 4, 1970.
[II] Munzel, Edgar. “Fast-Talker Bradley Silences Big Bats.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), June 26, 1971.
[III] Laurila, David. “Prospectus Q&A: Tom Bradley.” Baseball Prospectus, October 29, 2008. https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/8270/prospectus-qa-tom-bradley/.
[IV] Gabcik, John. “Tom Bradley.” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/tom-bradley/.
[V] Twombly, Wells. “A Depressing Setting for an Opener.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), April 23, 1974.
[VI] Gabcik.
[VII] Ibid.

 

 

 

 

Hodgin, Ralph

Positions: Left field, third base
Birthplace: Greensboro

First, Middle Names: Elmer Ralph
Date of Birth:  Feb. 10, 1915  Date and Place of Death: Oct. 4, 2011, Burlington, NC
Burial: Guilford Memorial Park, Greensboro

High School: Jamestown High School, Jamestown, NC
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-10, 167
Debut Year: 1939       Final Year: 1948          Years Played: 6
Teams and Years: Boston Bees 1939; Chicago White Sox 1943-44, 1946-48

 Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
530      1689    481      198      188      4          .285     .330     .367     5.1

When he took the mound at Briggs Stadium in Detroit on that cold, windy April day for his second start of the 1947 season, Hal Newhouser could legitimately claim to be the best pitcher in the American League. Playing for his hometown Tigers, the 26-year-old lefty had won 80 games over the past three years and two Most-Valuable Player Awards.

The pitcher who faced the visiting Chicago White Sox on that April day, however, wasn’t that Hal Newhouser. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe the stiff wind blowing off Lake Erie carried with it the raw rookie, the wild Newhouser of 1939 or ’40 who walked six or seven batters a game.

In any case, the Tiger hurler walked the leadoff hitter, Floyd Baker, in the first of what would be five free passes in a few innings of work that day. He then grooved a fastball to shortstop Luke Appling, a North Carolina boy and two-time batting champion, who promptly lined it to the gap in right for a double, sending Baker to third. Newhouser struck out Dave Philley for the first out and issued an intentional walk to load the bases for a double play. Up stepped Ralph Hodgin, all five-foot, 10-inches of him. Sportswriters liked referring to him in print as the “little left fielder” or the “little lefty” when he was batting since he hit from that side of the home plate.

At 32, Hodgin was getting on in baseball years and, unlike Newhouser, had just a couple of major-league seasons to brag about. As a rookie back in 1943, he had hit .314 for the White Sox, finishing second in the league’s batting race. He had followed that up by hitting close to .300 the next season, while striking out only 14 times in nearly 500 at bats. The Sporting News had reported then that Hodgin was “a splendid fly hawk, has a fine arm and is a tough little left-handed hitter.”[I]

But then, the little guy could always hit.

The second-youngest of seven children, Hodgin had grown up on his family’s dairy farm in Friendship, a community founded by Quakers in western Guilford County. When he wasn’t helping his father, Elmer, milk or feed cows, Hodgin had played baseball, first at old Jamestown High School and then for independent teams near home.[1]

Signed by the Tigers in 1935, he had been the second-best hitter in all of the minor leagues that season after batting .387 for the club’s Class D franchise in Fieldale, Virginia. He had continued to hit as he graduated through the minor leagues – from Charleston, West Virginia, to Charlotte, North Carolina, to Evansville, Indiana, to Hartford, Connecticut. The Bees, which had bought Hodgin’s contract in 1937, had called him to Boston two years later where he played in 32 games in his first major-league season and hit only .208.[2]

Hodgin had toiled three more years in the minors, including a season with the San Francisco Seals of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League in 1942. There, he had been the team’s best and most-consistent hitter. Some had said at the time that he was the Seal’s best outfielder in a decade. “He’s the quiet type, saying little in the clubhouse or on the bench, but he hustles all the time,” a reporter had noted at the time.[II]

White Sox coaches had certainly liked Hodgin’s bat when they drafted him from the Seals after the season, but they may have been more enamored of his draft status. Hodgin had married Frances, or Frannie, Huckabeee in 1939 and they had an infant daughter. As the family’s only means of financial support, Hodgin was temporarily excused from serving in the armed forces at a time when World War II was quickly depleting team rosters. A reliable bat that could remain in the lineup, at least for a little while, was an attractive proposition.

It had paid off during Hodgin’s first two years with the Sox, but he had missed all of the 1945 season and part of the next one after his draft board reconsidered his status and cancelled his deferment. He was inducted into the Army in January, but the war was over before he finished training.

When he dug into the box on April 21, 1947, Hodgin was eager to re-establish himself as a hard-hitting regular. We don’t know where in the count it happened because 73-year-old records aren’t that precise, but at some point in the at bat Newhouser unleased a fastball. He rarely hit anyone with errant pitches. But this one hit Hodgin. In the right temple. At a time when few players wore protective batting helmets.[3] The sound of ball hitting bone cracked through the stadium, and Hodgin went down as if shot. A hush settled over the old ballyard as the 7,000 or so spectators held their collective breath. The umpires called for a stretcher and Hodgin was carried off the field. Doctors at the hospital said later he suffered a concussion and a bad bruise. They expected him to fully recover.

Newhouser lost the game and would end up having an off year dominated by wildness, losing as many games as he won. He would recover, however, and pitch effectively for eight more seasons. His plaque now hangs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hodgin’s major-league career effectively ended on that cold afternoon. He was out for three weeks and was ordered back to bed after playing in one game and complaining of headaches. Though he hit. 294 in the 59 games, Hodgin seemed tentative at the plate.

He declared himself fully recovered when he reported for spring training in 1948. “I’m feeling fine,” he said. “At first I had some short lapses of memory, then some terrible headaches. But my head has not bothered me at all during the past few months.”[III]

The little guy who could always hit lost his aggressiveness at the plate, batting just .266, and a few steps in the outfield. The White Sox sold him to Sacramento, California, in the Pacific Coast League at the end of season. Hodgin ended his major-league career with a .285 lifetime average, 14th best among North Carolina players with at least 1,000 at bats.

Hodgin spent the next eight years playing or managing in the minors. He won a Carolina League championship with the Reidsville, North Carolina, Luckies in 1952. He retired from baseball four years later and drove trucks or was a dispatcher for oil-delivery companies in Greensboro. He and Frannie had moved there with their two surviving daughters.

Frannie died in 1995. Hodgin was the oldest surviving White Sox and the fourth-oldest major leaguer when he died in 2011 at age 96.

Footnotes
[1] Jamestown High School opened in 1915 on a prominent hill in town. It functioned as a high school until Ragsdale High opened in 1959. The building housed an elementary school until 1982 when it underwent extensive renovations and reopened as the Jamestown Public Library six years later. The Classical Revival-style brick building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
[2] The National League’s Boston franchise had several names since its founding in 1870 as the Red Stockings. Sportswriters began calling the team the Beaneaters in the late 1880s, but the Braves became the official nickname in 1912. Bob Quinn bought the financially struggling franchise in 1936 and renamed it the Bees. Five years later, a new owner, Lou Perini, changed the nickname back to the Braves. The team has kept the name despite moving twice, first to Milwaukee, WS, and  then to Atlanta, GA.
[3] A few batters as far back as the early 1900s devised crude protective helmets after being struck in the head by pitches. The Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941 became the first major-league team to require its players to wear helmets during the regular season. The Washington Senators, the NY Giants, and the Chicago Cub quickly followed. It would be another 15 years, though, before the National League required helmets. The American League followed two years later, but the requirement wasn’t strictly enforced and many players ignored it. Finally, Major League Baseball began strictly enforcing the mandatory use of batting helmets during the 1971 season.

References
[I] “20 Players Move Up From Coast League.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), November 12, 1942.
[II] McGee, Jim. “Hodgin Hustlin’ Outfielder.”  Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), November 12, 1942.
[III] “Ralph Hodgin Fully Recovered.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), March 10, 1948.