Abernathy, Tal

Position: Relief, starting pitcher
Birthplace: Bynum

First, Middle Names: Talmadge Lafayette         Nicknames: Ted, Tal

Date of Birth:  Oct. 30, 1921  Date and Place of Death: Nov. 16, 2001, Charlotte
Burial:  Olney Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Gastonia, NC

High School: Mebane High School, Mebane, NC
College: Elon University, Elon, NC

Bats: R             Throws: L                    Height and Weight: 6-2, 210
Debut Year: 1942       Final Year: 1944          Years Played: 3
Team and Years: Philadelphia Athletics, 1942-44

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA                 IP         SO       WAR
7          0          3          0       11.07               20.1     13        -1.2

Connie Mack was in a bind. The manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, Mack lost nine players to the armed services in 1942. To shore up his depleted pitching staff, he signed a 20-year-old lefthander with a stellar college career.

Talmadge Abernathy, who went variously by the names Ted or Tal, was born to a large family in Bynum, a cotton mill town on the banks of the Haw River in Chatham County. He did most of his growing up, though, in Mebane, North Carolina, in neighboring Alamance County where his father, John, worked in a hosiery mill.

Tal pitched for the local high school and went on to nearby Elon College where, as a freshman in 1939, he tossed a no-hitter in his first start for the varsity squad. He also set a school record that year by twice striking out 17 batters in game. Abernathy went 13-2 over the next two seasons, leading Elon to consecutive conference championships. World War II forced the school to suspend its baseball program in 1942, but Abernathy left enough of a mark to attract Mack’s attention.

Abernathy pitched parts of three seasons for the Athletics, shuttling back and forth to the minors. He saw his most playing time in 1943 when he started two games, but he gave up 21 earned runs in 14.2 innings. He appeared in one game the following year, his last in the major leagues.

It was a time, though, when a player could hang on in the minors. Abernathy pitched five more years, compiling a 79-67 record in 238 minor-league games.

During the 1948 season, Abernathy made his managerial debut as the player-manager of two Carolina League teams in North Carolina, the Burlington Bees and the Reidsville Luckies. He was fined during his tenure with the Bees for throwing a baseball out of the park after an argument with an umpire. Abernathy later apologized to his teammates and promised to buy them all a steak if he were ever fined again.

Abernathy, his wife, Ruby, and their eventual six children continued to live in Mebane during his baseball career. He was a member of civic groups and the high-school booster club. The family even won an honorable mention in Mebane’s annual Christmas decoration competition in 1948.

With his playing days over the following year, Abernathy began a long career in textiles with Dixie Mercerizing Co. in 1951 in Burlington, North Carolina. A job for American and Efird Mills and Textiles brought him to Gastonia in the 1960s. He was also the North Carolina sales engineer for Saco-Lowell, then the largest maker of textile machinery in the world

Abernathy was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame in 1974.

He and Ruby were still living in Gastonia when Abernathy died in 2001 at the age of 80. Ruby died the following year.


Clark, Cap

Position: Catcher
Birthplace: Snow Camp

First, Middle Names: John Carrol           Nicknames: Cap

Date of Birth:  Sept. 19, 1906 Date and Place of Death: Feb. 16, 1957, Fayetteville
Burial: Lafayette Memorial Park, Fayetteville

High School: Undetermined  
College: Elon University, Elon

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-11, 180
Debut Year: 1938       Final Year: 1938          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Philadelphia Phillies, 1938

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
52        74        19        11        4          0         .257     .337     .297     -0.2

Cap Clark was a high-school teacher and coach most of the time. In the summer when school was out, he played professional baseball. He kicked around the minors for six years before getting the call. Clark put in a respectable season as a backup catcher in the majors and then went back teaching and coaching. He added shop keeping when he opened a sporting goods store in Fayetteville that’s still in business eighty years later.

John Carrol Clark was born in Snow Camp, a small community in Alamance County so named because it snowed the night British troops camped there during the Revolution. John Sr. and Frances “Fannie” Clark soon moved their six surviving children to a farm in nearby Newlin, where Clark grew up.

It’s unclear how he got his nickname. They were calling him Cap at Elon College, where he played baseball, football, and basketball. The student newspaper in 1928 went further than that. “The Babe Ruth of Elon,” it described the slugging outfielder.[I]

After graduating in 1930, Clark taught and coached first at Garner High School in Wake County and then at Raeford high in Hoke County. He played ball in the summer. Clark switched position to catcher while playing for the Asheville Tourists early in his professional career.

After hitting well over .300 for two years in the high minor leagues, Clark got his chance when the Philadelphia Phillies hired him as their backup catcher for the 1938 season. He hit .257 in limited play and was released.

After a couple of more years in the minors, Clark quit baseball in 1940, about the time he and Fred Culbreth opened Clark & Culbreth Sporting Goods in Fayetteville.

Clark had married Mildred Pipkin, a Garner native, in 1936. They settled in Fayetteville to raise their two children.

 He was a young man – only 49 – in 1957 when a heart attack killed Cap Clark.

A few years later, St. Andrews College in Laurinburg named its new baseball field after Clark, a school benefactor. His store, now Clark Sporting Goods Co. and no longer owned by the family, is still there on Bragg Boulevard.

 [I] “Clark Lead Elon Past L-R.” Maroon and Gold (Elon College, Elon, NC), April 26, 1928.