Upright, Dixie

Primary Position: Pinch hitter
Birthplace: Kannapolis

First, Middle Names: Roy Theophilus
Date of Birth: May 30, 1926    Date and Place of Death: Nov. 13, 1986, Concord, NC
Burial: Greenlawn Cemetery, China Grove, NC

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

Bats: L Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-0, 175
Debut Year: 1953        Final Year: 1953          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: St. Louis Browns, 1953

Career Summary
G          AB       H          R          RBI       HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
9          8          2          3          1               1       .250     .333     .625       0.0

Dixie Upright hit everywhere he went in the minors. At his first stop in 1947, a lowly Class D league in Oklahoma, he scorched the ball at a .360 clip. Promoted up the ladder, he continued to hit: .336 in Class B, .343 in Class A, .300 in Class AA. Once, in a doubleheader in Memphis, Tennessee, he reached base nine consecutive times. He often challenged for batting titles each season and was among the league leaders in home runs and runs batted in. When he was done after 12 seasons in the minor leagues, he boasted a career .311 average. Yes, Dixie could hit.

About the only place he didn’t was in St. Louis, Missouri. The American League’s Browns bought his contract in 1953 after Upright had hit .318 for the Memphis Chicks the previous season. He appeared in nine games in early May as a pinch hitter. He got two hits, including a home run against future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians. It wasn’t enough, however. The Browns sold him to the Chicago Cubs who promptly sent him back to the minors, where he remained until he retired in 1958. By the way, he hit .343 that final season.

“He would always say that he was good with the wood but not the glove,” said his wife, Marcelle, years later.[I]

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Blackburn, Ron

Primary 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] Continue reading “Blackburn, Ron”