Wade, Whistling Jake

Position: Starting pitcher, relief pitcher
Birthplace: Morehead City

First, Middle Names: Jacob Fields Jr.             Nickname: Whistling Jake
Date of Birth:  April 1, 1912   Date and Place of Death: February 1, 2006, Wildwood, NC
Burial: Bayview Cemetery, Morehead City

High School: Charles S. Wallace School, Morehead City
College: N.C. State University, Raleigh, NC

Bats: L             Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-2, 175
Debut Year: 1936       Final Year: 1946          Years Played: 8
Team(s) and Years: Detroit Tigers, 1936-38; Boston Red Sox, 1939; St. Louis Browns, 1939; Chicago White Sox, 1942-44; New York Yankees, 1946; Washington Senators, 1946

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
171     27       40       3          5.00    668.1  291      0.3

Johnny Allen had to be pleased when he saw who was the warming up in the Tigers’ bullpen to face him on what he hoped would be a historic October afternoon in Detroit for the last game of the 1937 season. The Tigers were sending out the whistling wild man, Jake Wade, the worst pitcher on the team, a guy who could be depended on to walk six or seven while giving up four or five runs. Allen had to figure this one was in the bag. Move over Lefty Grove.

 An orphan from Thomasville, North Carolina, Allen could be ill-tempered on the mound, arguing with umpires and brawling with opponents and teammates who made errors behind him. He was, however, a very talented pitcher. The ace of the Cleveland Indians’ staff, he had won 20 games the previous year and would have been even better in 1937 had he not missed almost the entire first half of season with appendicitis. He had not lost a game since coming back, however, and was looking for his 16th consecutive victory to tie an American League record held by league immortals Grove and Walter Johnson.

Standing in Allen’s way was a fellow North Carolinian, a 24-year-old righthander in his second year in the major leagues. There was no denying Jake Wade’s stuff – good fastball and a decent-enough breaking pitch.  If he could only find the plate. He had walked 107 so far during the season. Add the hits he had given up and an unwieldy 267 batters had reached base in only 165 innings of pitching. Little wonder, then, that when he took the mound that afternoon of Oct. 3, Wade had allowed an average of more than five runs a game and had lost ten while winning only six. His rookie year hadn’t been much better. No, he was no Johnny Allen.

Managers, however, usually don’t quickly give up on youngsters with hop on their fastball. They hope that they’ll one day learn how to control it. The Tiger skipper, Mickey Cochrane, had to wince, though, when Wade walked the second batter in the game after getting the first to pop out. Here we go. The kid, however, threw the third strike past the dangerous Earl Averill, and catcher Frankie Pytlak’s strong throw nabbed the runner trying to steal second. Double play. Inning over. Cochrane exhaled.

Tigers’ slugger Hank Greenberg singled in a run in the home half of the inning, and Wade retook the mound with the slimmest of leads. None of the 22,000 in Navin Field figured it would be enough.

Jacob Fields Wade Jr. was born on April Fool’s Day in 1912 to what would eventually become a small tribe of Wades in the house on Fisher Street in downtown Morehead City. He was named after his father, a commercial fisherman. To everyone in town, his mother, Lorine, was Lovie. Her eleven children would always win the church prize for the largest family in the congregation.

Like his two brothers, Wade excelled on the baseball diamond. His elder brother Charles Winfield – some called him Winny, but to most in Morehead City he was Croaker – would play and manage in the minors. His baby brother, Ben, would pitch for five years in the National League. The Wades are one of three sets of North Carolina brothers to pitch big-league ball. The others are Tom and “Tobacco Chewin’“ Johnny Lanning of Buncombe County and Gaylord and Jim Perry of Williamston.

Wade played first base, like Croaker, when he entered old Charles Wallace School in Morehead City, but his coach quickly made him a pitcher. Opposing batters complained that he often loaded his pitches with saliva and other substances. Though unsavory, such doctoring was legal at the time. After high school, he pitched for three years, starting in 1929, for what is now N.C. State University in Raleigh.

He made his pro debut in 1931 for the Raleigh Capitals in the Class D Piedmont League. The Tigers bought his contract the following season, and Wade spent the next four years in their farm system, walking more than five batters a game. He made his major-league debut on April 22, 1936, lasting one inning in which he gave up three runs on five hits. The Tigers sent him to their double A team in Montreal, Canada, but called him back in late July because of injuries to their pitchers. Wade ended his first big-league season with a lackluster 5.29 earned-run average, giving up 93 hits and walking 52 in 79 innings.

Given that history, Wade may have been the most surprised guy in the park when he took the mound that day to open the seventh inning. He had walked only two batters, struck out four and had not given up a hit. He was pitching the game of his life. Allen had been almost as good, allowing that first-inning run and no more.

The magic, though, may have run its course. A walk, a single and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. In spots like these in the past, Wade crumbled under the pressure and started walking everyone in sight. “He got nervous and excited and tightened up in tough going and the going on this afternoon was tough, if it ever was,” a sportswriter noted at the time.[I]

But on that October day, Whistling Jake induced Bruce Campbell, the Indians’ right fielder, to lift a harmless fly to left for the final out. “Inning after inning, the chance of Allen winning 16 in a row became more and more remote due to the hurling of Wade, the one pitcher on the Detroit staff Cleveland felt sure of beating,” that sportswriter observed.[II]

About that nickname.. Some at the time said Wade acquired it because of his knack for imitating bird songs. This account left by a Detroit newspaper columnist suggests there may have been more to it. “A lot of fellows like to whistle, but they can take their whistling or let it alone. Not so Jake,” he wrote when Wade joined the Tigers in 1936. “He practices whistling like a Paderewski would practice on the piano.[1] A couple of hours a day. And make no mistake about it, Whistlin’ Jake really can whistle.”[III]

A roommate in the minors reported that Wade would sit in front of a mirror for hours whistling at his image. “This Wade is a screwball or I’m a goldfish,” the roomy told the newspapers.

Wade didn’t deny it. “I just like to keep my lips limbered up,” he said. [IV]

The kid better known for his whistling than his pitching breezed through the last two innings without giving up another hit. He won 1-0, denying Allen a place in the record books. “That’s the way I should have been pitching in April,” Wade said after the game. “I do everything backwards.”[V]

It would be wonderful to report that on that day Jake Wade became the pitcher that all his managers hoped he would. That’s not how it turned out. He went to and from the major leagues for seven more years and would never again pitch like he did on that Sunday afternoon in October. In fact, the Tigers lost faith that Wade would ever find his control after he walked 48 in 70 innings of relief in 1938. They traded him to the Boston Red Sox. Wade was even worse, allowing 105 runners in less than 48 innings pitched. Boston sold him to the St. Louis Browns during the 1939 season.

“I woke up one morning in the spring of 1940 at the Browns’ training camp with a sore arm,” he explained. “I kept right on trying to pitch the soreness out, but it was no use.”[VI] Wade spent the next two years in the minors trying to find his way back.

He was pain free and pitching for the Cincinnati Reds’ farm team in Indianapolis to open the 1941 season, but he had nothing on the ball. He returned home after appearing in seven games. “I went back home to Morehead City entirely satisfied that I was washed up,” he said.[VII]           

Wade settled in for a life without baseball. He had married a local woman, Rosalie Watson, in 1937. They had moved to Wildwood, a small community west of Morehead City where they would raise five children. To support that growing family, Wade pitched for minor-league teams in New Bern and Greensboro, North Carolina, and worked as a laborer and truck driver at the Marine Corps’ air station in nearby Havelock, North Carolina.

The following spring, however, Rosalie found him packing his bags. She asked where he was going. To Florida, Wade said, to find a real job in the big leagues. He tried to audition for a number of clubs at their training camps, but most wouldn’t even give him a tryout. With his money running out, Wade returned home when the season opened. Maybe, it really was over.

Hundreds of miles away in Chicago, Jimmy Dykes, the manager of the White Sox, was fretting about his faltering pitching staff. He summoned Wade in mid-June. “It (the salary) wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m back in the majors and after all, what more could a fellow ask?” Wade said after signing.[VIII]

In his first outing, he took over for the starter in the first inning and hurled eight scoreless frames, giving up three hits. He pitched two more scoreless innings three days later. In his first start a week after that, he mowed down the Philadelphia Athletics on three hits. He beat them again 12 days later.

Wade had his best years during the early 1940s. Playing for three American League teams, he pitched mainly out of the bullpen to lineups largely depleted of major-league caliber players because of World War II. While the walks were still high, Wade managed to limit the damage and became a serviceable reliever.

He joined the war effort by enlisting in the Navy in 1945 and spent a year pitching for base teams before being discharged. He played in his last major-league game in 1946 and retired from baseball after pitching four more seasons in the minors.

Wade returned to Wildwood and became an electronics repair technician at the Marine air base. He retired in 1976.

He died in 2006 at the age after suffering a stroke several years earlier.


Footnotes
[1] Ignacy Jan Paderewki (1880-1941) was a Polish composer and pianist who was a favorite of concert audiences around the world. A spokesman for Polish independence, he became prime minister in 1919 when the country was created after World War I.

References
[I] Fuqua, John. “Jake Wade.” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/jake-wade/.
[II]Salsinger, H.G. “Jake Wade, Who Snapped Allen’s Victory String, Keep Knocking at Front Door, Entering at Back.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), January 13, 1938.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] Ward, Charles P. “Ward to the Wise.” Detroit (MI) Free Press, August 3, 1936.
[V] Ibid.
[VI] Holst, Doc. “Wade Beats Allen on One Hit; Goslin Released.” Detroit (MI) Free Press, October 4, 1937.
[VII]  Farrington, Dick. “Everything Turned Out Jake in Wade’s Comeback Hop, But Not Until He Whistled Long and Loud for Chance.” Sporting News (St. Louis, MO), December 2, 1942.
[VIII] Ibid.

Zachary, Tom

Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Graham

First, Middle Names: Jonathan Thompson Walton
Date of Birth:  May 7, 1896    Date and Place of Death: Jan. 24, 1969, Burlington
Burial: Alamance Memorial Park, Burlington

High School: Undetermined
College: Guilford College, Greensboro

Bats: L             Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-1, 187
Debut Year: 1918       Final Year: 1936          Years Played: 19
Team(s) and Years: Philadelphia Athletics, 1918; Washington Senators, 1919-25; St. Louis Browns, 1926-27; Senators, 1927-28; N.Y. Yankees, 1928-30; Boston Braves, 1930-34; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1934-36; Philadelphia Phillies, 1936
Awards: N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, 1966

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
533   186    191      23      3.73    3126.1  720      40.1

Tom Zachary was one of the best pitchers to come out of North Carolina. Only two pitchers from the state had longer major-league careers. Only four started more games. Only five won more. A crafty lefty known for his coolness under pressure, Zachary played in three World Series and won the three games that he started.

Few people, though, wanted to talk about any of that after Zachary retired to his farm in Alamance County. Everyone, however, wanted to know about the day he served up Babe Ruth’s 60th home run. “There’s probably been more talk about that pitch than any other one pitch in baseball,” Zachary pointed out more than three decades after that historic afternoon, “and it has made me somewhat of a baseball goat for years.”[I]

So, let’s get it out of the way.

Zachary was an established star in when he took the mound at Yankee Stadium on that Friday afternoon of Sept. 30, 1927. He was back with the Washington Senators, a team with whom he had had his best years. There was that one glorious season three years earlier when Zachary joined with the peerless Walter Johnson to lead the Senators to a championship. He had been traded to the hapless St. Louis Browns in late 1925, but they traded him back to Washington just a few weeks before his date with destiny.

The Senators arrived in New York for the season’s final three games against one of the greatest teams in baseball history. The Yankees, who would win 110 games and would sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, had a star at almost every position. Six would end up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. No one, of course, was bigger than The Bambino.

Ruth had 57 homers entering the final series. He hit two in the first game to tie the record he had set in 1921. Ruth had faced Zachary many times, hitting eight home runs off of him, including two earlier in the season.

 Zachary pitched Ruth carefully in the first inning, walking him on four pitches. Ruth got hits the next two times up. He came up again in the eighth with one out and the score knotted at two. Yankee shortstop Mark Koenig was on third after having tripled. Ruth swung viciously at the first pitch and missed. He took the second for a ball.

Babe Ruth sends a Tom Zachary curve ball to deep right field for his record 60th home run. Photo: National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I guess I could have thrown him one of my fastballs, but I didn’t want him to get hold of one of those,” Zachary remembered many years later.  “I threw him a good curve ball, the best I had, but it wasn’t enough. He hit it a mile.”[II]

The resulting whack of wood on ball echoed through the cavernous stadium as the 8,000 spectators rose in thunderous acclaim. The ball streaked on a line towards right field, clearing the foul pole by maybe 10 feet and landing deep in the bleachers. Zachary threw his hat down in disgust and watched the Babe trot around, spiking each base carefully. “I certainly wasn’t ashamed of Babe Ruth hitting the home run,” he said all those years later.  “I wasn’t too upset when he sent one of my pitches out of the park. It certainly was nothing unusual.”[III]

Here’s something that was unusual: Zachary never pitched an inning in the minor leagues. In his day, most players had long careers down in the bushes, either on their way up or on their way out. Not Zachary. He literally went straight from the school diamond to the American League. When his major-league career was over 19 years later, there was no hanging around for a few more seasons in the minors. Zachary simply went home.

Home was always the farm near Graham in Alamance County. Jonathan Thompson Walton was one of nine kids that Alfred and Mary Zachary, devout Quakers, raised there. Zachary was never a gentleman farmer, either. He was the real deal. He worked the fields as a kid and even wrote an article for an agricultural journal when he was a teenager about growing big tomatoes. He grew tobacco, corn and cotton during the season and, when all games were finally played, Zachary always returned to the farm, trading his uniform for bib overalls. He could always be found in the county’s country stores discussing crop prices with his neighbors.

For the young Zachary, baseball began looking like a real alternative to farming when he entered Guilford College in 1916.[1] He played the outfield when he wasn’t pitching. He hit .345 his freshman year. He and Tim Murchison led a powerful team the following year that went undefeated.

Zachary that year locked up in a pitching dual with future big-leaguer George Murray of North Carolina State College that would become part of the state’s baseball lore. Each pitched 16 innings in a scoreless game. Murray struck out 20 while Zachary fanned 14. The game was called on account of “haziness” though the sun hadn’t set. The News & Observer of Raleigh speculated that the home plate umpire got hungry and “was no longer interested in baseball.”[IV]

With America at war, Zachary joined a Quacker Red Cross in 1918. While in Philadelphia for training, he persuaded Connie Mack to give him a tryout. Mack, the patrician owner and manager of the Athletics, the city’s American League franchise, may have been impressed with the well-spoken college kid whose manners and studious bearing were in marked contrast to most players of the day. Mack certainly liked what he saw on the field because “Zach Walton” pitched three innings against the St. Louis Browns on July 11. He was credited with the victory. He got his first start nine days later against the Cleveland Indians and won again.[2]

Major-league baseball was shut down in early September because of the war and Zachary never signed with the A’s.

After Zachary got a taste of the big time, his college days were over. When he returned from France in 1919, Zachary signed with the Senators and proceeded to pitch the best ball of his life. He would win at least 15 games in four of the next seven seasons, baffling hitters with an assortment of curve balls, screwballs and change ups.

In Game 6 of the 1924 World Series against the New York Giants, Zachary proved his worthiness in the clutch. Johnson, the Senators’ ace on whose right arm the team’s fortunes usually depended, lost the preceding game. The Giants would have to win just one of the final two games to claim the championship. Gloom settled over Washington.

Zachary gave the city hope. He scattered seven hits and had the Giants muttering in a 2-1 victory. It was his second win of the series. The incomparable Grantland Rice described the aftermath: “The depressing pass of gloom that had swept down upon Washington after Walter Johnson’s defeat has vanished in a day. When the king died after his valiant struggle, all hope perished… In the triumph of Zachary, the tom-toms are resounding on Pennsylvania Avenue and the balmy air is rife with the victorious lift of that human voice.”[V]

The reticent Zachary, who was always hesitant to talk about himself, was less whimsical but more to the point in describing his performance. “All batters look alike to me,” he said.  “I don’t get scared in the pinch. When there’s men on base and the going gets tough that’s when I get good.”[VI]

A city’s hopes were on the mound with Tom Zachary during Game 6 of the 1924 World Series.

Johnson redeemed himself by coming back on one day’s rest in Game 7 to win 4-3 in 12 innings and give the Senators the title.

The Yankees picked Zachary up on waivers in August 1928 when their lefthanded ace, Herb Pennock, went down with an injury.  Zachary won three games down the stretch and pitched well in relief. He started Game 3 of the World Series against the Cardinals and won 7-3, striking out seven.

Zachary had his best year statistically in 1929, going 12-0 with a 2.48 ERA. Sporting News declared him the best pitcher in the American League. Baseball references, however, recognize Lefty Grove of the A’s as the ERA leader because Zachary didn’t pitch enough innings to be eligible under today’s rules.

After Zachary struggled at the start of the 1930 season, the Yankees put the 33-year-old on waivers. Zachary would play for three teams, all in the National League, over the next seven years. He had losing records for mostly losing teams. He quit after the 1936 season at age 40.

He and his wife, Etta, settled into life on the farm with their two children. Etta was involved with the Parent-Teachers Association in Graham and was known for having a marvelous green thumb, winning awards for her flowers.

Zachary continued farming and attended banquets as a local baseball celebrity. He appeared often on the Guilford College campus and was inducted into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 1971. He had been selected for the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame five years earlier.

Oldtimers’ games were also on his schedule. He joined Ruth and other old Yankees at one such affair at Yankee Stadium in 1948. Ruth was dying of throat cancer. Sportscaster Mel Allen asked Zachary in front of a jam-packed house if he was the guy who served up the Big Guy’s record homer. When he played with the Yankees, Zachary would occasionally tell Ruth that his historic hit went foul. He hesitated for a second before telling Allen that he was on the mound that day.

Ruth, noticing the pause, walked over to Zachary, poked his chin up in his face and rasped, “You left-handed son-of-a-bitch, you still think that ball was foul, don’t you?

Zachary fondly looked at the great Bambino, the uniform hanging off his ravaged body, and replied, “No, Babe, it was a fair ball.”[VII]

Ruth died three months later.

Zachary suffered a stroke in late 1967 and seemed to recover, but he died of a second one 18 months later in January 1969.

Footnotes
[1]The small Quaker school in the community of Guilford College was something of a baseball factory in Zachary’s time. It produced a number of other major-league players, including Ernie Shore from East Bend, Rick and Wes Ferrell from Durham, Tim Murchison from Liberty and Rufus Smith from the community of Guilford College just down the road. 
[2] Zachary was always tight lipped about the short career of Zach Walton but it’s always been assumed he used the alias to protect his remaining year of college eligibility.

References
[I] Hunter, Bill. “Sports Roundup.” The Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Md), September 20, 1961.
[II] United Press International. “Tom Zachary Recalls Day Ruth Hit 60th. Galveston (TX) Daily News. September 8, 1961.
[III] Hunter.
[IV] Rainey, Chris. “Tom Zachary.” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/b15fdeca.
[V] Hunter, Bill. “Former Major-League Pitching Great Tom Zachary Dies at 72.” Daily Times-News (Burlington, NC). January 25, 1969.
[VI] Rainey.
[VII] Hunter.

Stowe, Hal

Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Gastonia

First, Middle Names: Harold Rudolph
Date of Birth:  Aug. 29, 1937             

Current Residence: Belmont, NC

High School: Belmont High School
College: Clemson University, Clemson, SC

Bats: L             Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-0, 170
Debut Year: 1960       Final Year: 1960          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: N.Y. Yankees, 1960

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
1          0          0          0         9.00   1.0        0          0.0

Hal Stowe had real pedigree when he took the mound at Yankee Stadium for his major-league debut on that balmy September night in 1960. He was a stud, a prep and college star who had lit up the minor leagues. By all baseball forecasts, this was to be the beginning of a long and illustrious career.

As a kid in Gastonia, Stowe had pitched his American Legion Post 23 to runner up in the World Series. Those were heady days. College recruiters filled the stands when he pitched. Young Harold was considering Florida State until one Sunday afternoon when he arrived home and found coaches from Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, sitting around his kitchen table. His mother, Nellie, was dishing out country ham and eggs. No need to go way down to Florida to play ball, Fred Stowe suggested to his son. Within minutes, Hal agreed to head to South Carolina.[I]

Hal Stowe, right, led Bill Wilhelm’s Clemson Tigers to Omaha in the College World Series. Photo: Clemson University

He was one of the best pitchers to come out of Clemson, taking the Tigers to two straight trips to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series for the first times in school history. Stowe was the top collegiate pitcher in the country in 1958, leading his peers in appearances (21), innings pitched (127.0), strikeouts (126) and wins (14). He was named to the College All-Star team that year and the next. To this day, Clemson gives the annual Harold Stowe MVP Award to its outstanding pitcher.

Next to come calling were the storied New York Yankees. They signed Stowe in 1959 and sent him to teams in their low minor leagues, first to Greensboro, North Carolina, and then to Fargo, North Dakota, where Stowe won five games and impressed coaches with his poise and 2.75 earned-run average. He earned a late-season call-up to New York, but he sat on the bench for a month without getting into a game.

Stowe reported for spring training with the Yankees in 1960 and broke camp with the team, rooming with Yogi Berra. The kid and the aging icon would form a lifelong friendship. “My first experience was driving him to the dog track in St. Petersburg, Fla., during spring training,” Stowe told a reporter in 2015. “His favorite dog was named ‘Yellow Rose of Texas.’ That dog never won but Yogi always bet on him.”[II]

Unlike the Yankees, who wouldn’t bet on their young lefty. Stowe again sat for a month without appearing in a game before the he was shipped to Double A Amarillo., Texas. He won 12 games and earned another trip to New York.

Where he sat some more until that night on Sept. 30, when the call to the bullpen finally came.

The Yankees had already clinched yet another pennant, and Manager Casey Stengel was resting his starting pitchers for the World Series, which would begin in four days. He had already used three relievers in this meaningless game against the Boston Red Sox when he decided to bring in the talented kid to start the eighth inning with his team trailing 4-2.

Stowe was only 22 when he nervously toed the pitching rubber that night. Though it meant nothing in the grand scheme of baseball, the game meant everything to Hal Stowe. All his past achievements on baseball diamonds from North Carolina to Nebraska had brought him to this moment, on this grand diamond in New York. All he hoped to achieve hinged on what happened next.

The Red Sox’s first batter, the dangerous Vic Wertz, stepped to the plate. Stowe waked him. Not a good start. Take a deep breath and get the next guy.

That would be catcher Russ Nixon, who already had two hits in the game. Pitching from the stretch, Stowe apparently moved in an odd way that caught the attention of home-plate umpire Larry Napp. He called a balk and waved Wertz to second.

Nixon then laid down a pretty bunt to move him to third.

Back in college, Stowe was famous for his grit and determination. “He had more guts than anybody I ever saw standing on that mound,” Clemson Manager Bill Wilhelm said in 1991 of his star pitcher. “And the more he pitched, the better he got. He was a horse.”[III]

This was a good time to summon those qualities.

Stowe pitched carefully to Sox third baseman Frank Malzone, who lifted a routine fly ball to leftfield. It was just far enough, however, to drive in Wertz.

Stowe induced the next batter to pop to third for the last out.

It wasn’t an inning he would have scripted, but Stowe did bear down, limiting the damage without giving up a hit.

Stengel met his pitcher at the dugout steps. The Old Man puts his arms around the him.

“Were you scared, kid?” Stengel asked.

“Damn right I was,” Stowe replied.

Casey smiled. He told Stowe he was taking him out but assured him he’d do better the next time.[IV]

The thing is, there never was a next time.

Stowe would spend four more years in professional baseball, winning 49 games in the minors, but he never again pitched in the major leagues. The guy who arrived with such promise left with this inglorious career line: one inning pitched, a walk, a balk, a sac fly and a big, fat 9.00 ERA. Had Stengel left him in, Stowe would have least gotten a “W” in that line after the Yankees scored four runs in the ninth to win the game.

All these years later, it’s hard to know exactly what happened, why the Yankees apparently lost faith in such a young, talented lefthanded pitcher. The numbers tell one story. It’s clear that Stowe excelled in the lower minor leagues, winning 34 games, but he lost 22 in a couple of stints at Triple A Richmond with high ERAs.

But he also showed an ability to get major-league hitters out. Stowe trained with the Yankees in Florida in 1961. He pitched 17 innings that exhibition season, giving up only three earned runs – two coming on solo homers by Rocky Colavito.

Ralph Houk, the manager of the N.Y. Yankees, had an old-school outlook when it came to his pitchers. He may have been a roadblock to Hal Stowe’s career. Photo: N.Y. Daily News

Again, he made the team and, again, he sat in the bullpen. Another call never came.

Stowe put some of the blame on Ralph Houk, who replaced Stengel as Yankee manager in 1961. “Houk simply didn’t like me. I hate to say that, but it’s true,” Stowe told a newspaper columnist in 1991. “He’d look the other way when he passed me in the locker room. And I sat on the bench from opening day to the middle of July, and he never gave me a single chance.”[V]

Houk, a former catcher whom players called The General, had an old-school outlook when it came to pitchers. He liked those who threw hard. Houk called one of them up that July, the fireballer Al Downing, and sent the nibbler Stowe to Richmond.1

Stowe didn’t do well there and was demoted to Amarillo where he won 14 straight.

 You guessed it. Another call to New York and more sitting around. At least this time he had a front seat to history. “It’s hard to accept rejection, but life must go on,” Stowe said philosophically in that 1991 interview. “I can say that I did pitch batting practice to Roger Maris on the night he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, and that’s the highlight of my career with the Yankees.”[VI]

Stowe retired in 1964 and returned to Gastonia where he worked for a time at Burlington Industries while helping his father, Fred, run the family restaurant. Fred had opened Stowe’s Fish Camp in the early 1950s. Several like it flourished in Gaston County for decades, serving fresh, fried catfish from the nearby Catawba River.2

Stowe and his wife, Betty, bought the fish camp when Fred retired in 1973. He put his signed pictures of Berra and Maris and Yogi and Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford on wall and would become a fixture behind the counter filleting and frying fish for the next 30 years.

Hal and Betty finally retired in 2001 to their comfortable brick home just up Union New Hope Road from the fish camp, where they still live. None of the kids were interested in taking over. They sold the restaurant that April. It burned to the ground 10 months later. Luckily, Stowe took the pictures with him.

Footnotes
[1] Houk, a former catcher whom players called The General, had an old-school outlook when it came to pitchers. He liked those who threw hard. Houk called one of them up that July, the fireballer Al Downing, and sent the nibbler Stowe to Richmond.
[2] For a nostalgic look at the old fish camps that once lined the Catawba River, see David Joy’s essay in Charlotte Magazine, https://www.charlottemagazine.com/essay-a-charlotte-native-remembers-fish-camps/.

References
[I] Griffin, John. “Sowe’s Guts, Arm Earned Him Kudos.” Gaston (NC) Observer, April 27, 1991.
[II] Shelby (NC) Star. “Memories Abound as MLB Playoffs Start Without All-Time World Series Champion Yogi Berra.” Oct. 6, 2015.
[III] Griffin.
[IV] Helms, Herman. “’I Can Be part of the Yankees,’ Says Gastonia’s Harold Stowe.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, Feb. 21, 1961.
[V] Griffin.
[VI] Griffin.

 

 

 

 

 

Cooke, Dusty

Position: Outfield
Birthplace: Swepsonville

First, Middle Names: Allen Lindsey        Nicknames: Dusty

Date of Birth:  June 23, 1907  Date and Place of Death: Nov. 21, 1987, Raleigh, NC
Burial: Westview Memorial Gardens, Lillington, NC

High School: Durham High School, Durham, NC  

Bats: L             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-1, 205
Debut Year: 1930       Final Year: 1938          Years Played: 8
Team(s) and Years: New York Yankees, 1930-32; Boston Red Sox, 1933-36; Cincinnati Reds, 1938

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
608    1745    489      324      229      24      .280     .384     .416     7.1

Life had been good to Dusty Cooke as he trotted out to right field at Griffith Stadium in Washington on that Sunday afternoon in April 1931. He was 24 years old, a kid from the sticks of Alamance County, batting third for the great New York Yankees, and playing in place of The Babe himself, who was nursing an injury. In his second year as a big leaguer, Cooke was beginning to show why one of his managers down in the minors called him “the game wrecker.” Through the first week of the new season, he was playing every day, hitting a torrid .353 and stealing bases with abandon. The kid had greatness written all over him, and his time had come.

Ossie Bluege, the Senators’ leadoff hitter that inning, lofted a flyball to shallow right. Cooke showed his dazzling speed by almost reaching the spot where the ball would land. He dove to make up te last couple of feet, and, in the instant it took to hit the ground, life turned mean. Cooke writhed in pain on the freshly mowed grass. The ball bounced toward the wall. No one thought to chase it down, as worried teammates gathered around the prone kid in obvious pain. Bluege was credited with an inside-the-park home run.

They carried a broken Dusty Cooke off the sun-drenched field that afternoon. Doctors later determined that his shoulder was separated and his collarbone splintered. Surgery would be required.

Injury once again exacted its heavy toll on greatness. Cooke would come back and have a decent eight-year career. His .384 on-base percentage is second among North Carolina players with more than a thousand career at bats and his .280 batting average is tied for 18th. Cooke, though, was never the star that everyone knew he should be. “You will not find his name in the Baseball Hall of Fame and present-day sportswriters have probably never heard of him, but he was denied baseball immortality by a quirk of fate,” wrote a teammate in his memoirs published in 2001.[I]

 If Dusty Cooke is remembered at all these days, it’s how the arc of his altered career later intersected with that of Jackie Robinson’s. Unfortunately, the encounter left such an indelible smear on Cooke and the character of a city that its leaders felt the need to apologize more than 60 years later.

Dusty was thought to be a replacement for the aging Babe Ruth. That’s him, second from right, standing next to The Babe in this 1930 photograph. Photo: Baseball Hall of Fame

Euclid Monroe Cooke survived the grisly horrors of the battlefields of Virginia and a wound received at one of them, Chancellorsville. He returned from the Civil War to the family farm on Swepsonville Road in Alamance County, where he survived two wives. Allen Lindsey, born in 1907 to his third wife, Nannie, was the last of Euclid’s 10 children. Euclid died when the child was 18 months old.

The teenager attended high school in Durham, North Carolina, but may not have graduated. The principal told Cooke that he would have to cut out football or baseball and focus on his studies. “I sorta agreed with the principal,” Cooke said years later. “I remembered the old saying, ‘If business interferes with your pleasure, cut out business.’ So, I quit school and concentrated on baseball, which I figured would be combining business with pleasure if I made good.”[II]

Cooke played for the mill teams that flourished at the time. He became a professional in 1927 when he joined the Durham Bulls. He was big for his era, six-foot, one-inch, and pushing 200 pounds, and he could run. Cooke was hitting .319 for the Bulls and was leading the league in stolen bases with 33 when Ed Barrow in New York took notice.

An able boxer who once fought John L. Sullivan in an exhibition, Barrow was pugnacious, loudly opiniated and a tyrant with players, but there was no better judge of baseball talent. Through shrewd trades, astute signings, and a budding farm system, he put together some of the greatest rosters in baseball history as the Yankees’ general manager from 1920 to 1945. Barrow sent his best man, head scout Paul Krichell, to Durham to take a look.

Ed Barrow

During his 37 years with New York, Krichell would sign many of the players who would make the Yankees one of the great dynasties in American sports. Krichell’s successes included both quality—such as Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Phil Rizzuto, and Whitey Ford—and quantity. He knew a star when he saw one.

 “When I saw him, I knew he was the ballplayer I had been dreaming about,” Krichell said of Cooke in 1946. “He had everything. A big guy and strong, and he could run like a deer. He could hit and throw and he could go get the ball in the outfield.”[III]

Krichell paid the Bulls $15,000 for Cooke, or more than $220,000 in current dollars. That the tight-fisted Barrow approved what was then a princely sum is an indication of what everyone thought this kid could be.          

At his first stop in the Yankee farm system, the Asheville, North Carolina, Tourists in the Class B South Atlantic League, Cooke in 1928 merely hit .362, four points shy of the battling title, and had 30 triples, a measure of his speed. Promoted to Double A St. Paul in Minnesota the following year, Cooke won the league’s triple crown (.358-33-148). Next stop: New York.

Newspapers by then were referring to him as “Dusty.” There’s some dispute about the origins of Cooke’s nickname. One newspaper columnists claimed high-school friends started calling him that after following him on a long car ride down dirt roads outside Durham. A Cooke relative offered a more colorful alternative that had to do with the cloud of dust Cooke created when he slid into second base. “You get that kind of speed with that kind of size and you’re going to have a lot of dust,” a nephew told a newspaper in 1987.[IV]

By whatever name, Cooke was a Yankee in 1930. He played in only 92 games that first season, but he impressed people with his size – John Kiernan of the New York Times wrote that “he has shoulders as big as an icebox” – and his moxie. It was rumored that Cooke had gotten so fed up with Babe Ruth’s needling during a card game on a team train that he picked Babe up and stuffed him into an upper berth. Ruth was said to get a kick out of the manhandling.

The injured shoulder was still ailing Cooke in 1932, and surgery was needed to fix splintered bone. He hurt himself again while throwing batting practice and appeared in only three games that season.

Sensing that their star had faded, the Yankees traded Cooke to the perennial league doormats, the Boston Red Sox, in 1933. He played well that year, appearing in 119 games, hitting .293 and scoring 86 runs, but another injury required a minor operation on his right elbow. Cooke became a utility outfielder for the rest of his career.

Bill Werber, Cooke’s Red Sox roommate, said Cooke would occasionally get depressed about the injuries and his diminished skills and quietly nurse a bottle of Jack Daniels. He’d pass out and fall out of bed. Werber covered him with a blanket on the floor.[V]

In a hint of what was to come, Cooke was driving in Durham during the offseason in 1935 and hit a black teenager, Henry Griffin, on a bicycle. Cooke put the teen, who had a compound leg fracture, in the back seat of his car and dropped him off at the steps of Lincoln Hospital. He was later charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Cooke told the arresting officer that he had been in “quite a bit of a hurry.”[VI] The charges were dropped three months later after Cooke paid Griffin $600.

He was at the time honeymooning in Florida. Cooke had married Daphne Rouse of Fuquay Springs, North Carolina, in February 1936. The newlyweds would make the Wake County town their home.

The Red Sox traded Cooke to the Cincinnati Reds in 1938, his last year in the majors.

Cooke played in the minor leagues before enlisting in the Navy’s Aviation Cadet Training Program on the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina in 1943. One of the first recruits he met was Ted Williams, the American League batting champ.[1] Cooke didn’t complete the training and spent the World War II as a pharmacist’s mate. He treated war-related injuries and also gained experience in fitness conditioning. Cooke saw combat during the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Jackie Robinson, left, and Ben Chapman, the Philadelphia Phillies’ manager, staged this photo in 1947. Neither looks happy about it. Photo: N.Y. Times

The Philadelphia Phillies, in an ironic twist, hired the oft-injured Cooke as a trainer when he returned from the Pacific in 1946. We don’t know much about his abilities healing sore muscles and aching bones, but there’s plenty of evidence that Cooke was a first-class bench jockey. Pitcher Robin Roberts said he had the loudest voice in baseball. Cooke used it to viciously ride opposing players in an attempt to get them off their games. It was, at the time, a common strategy.

The insults, though, took an ugly, mean, racial tone with Jackie Robinson. As the first African-American to play in the major leagues, Robinson had to endure verbal abuse wherever his Brooklyn Dodgers played, especially during his first season in 1947. The City of Brotherly Love, however, may have been the worst stop on the schedule.

The newspapers at the time didn’t record what the Phillies, led by Cooke and their manager Ben Chapman of Tennessee, yelled at Robinson, but it was so vile that some fans expressed embarrassment. The Dodgers were so incensed by the constant barrage of racial slurs that they rose to their teammate’s defense. Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella, two other black Dodgers, later got the same treatment.

Chapman defended his team’s actions by noting that opposing players used slurs against Joe DiMaggio, an Italian, and Hank Greenberg, a Jew. “It was all part of the game back then,” Chapman said in 2013. “You said anything you had to say to get an edge.”[VII]

Using prejudice to justify prejudice is a novel approach, but it misses a major point. DiMaggio and Greenberg could defend themselves. Robinson would not. To become the trailblazer, he had promised Dodgers’ management that he wouldn’t retaliate, that his response to the abuse would be silence. Cooke and Chapman knew that. Insulting a man who wouldn’t fight back could then be viewed as cowardly. That’s the way the Philadelphia City Council saw it in 2016 when it unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for the team’s behavior in 1947.

Cooke was the Phillies’ first-base coach and even interim manager for a dozen games when Chapman was fired during the 1948 season until he was fired in 1953.

He became co-owner of Mobley’s Art Center, an art-supply store in Raleigh, North Carolina, after baseball. He suffered a stroke in 1968 that left him unable to speak or write. He died in 1987 after a second stroke.

Footnote
[1] After a year of incessant fan heckling because of the military deferment he received, Ted Williams, the Boston Red Sox’s Hall of Fame outfielder, enlisted in in the Navy reserve in 1942 and was called to active duty in November. He spent three years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and elsewhere learning to fly. He didn’t see active combat before being discharged in December 1945. He was called up again in 1952 and flew fighter planes in Korea.

References
[I] Nowlin, Bill. “Dusty Cooke.” Society for American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/e46d5d86.
[II] Ibid.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] Ibid.
[V] Ibid.
[VI] “Arrest Dusty Cooke for Auto Accident.” The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), December 10, 1935.
[VII] Barra, Allen. “What Really Happened to Ben Chapman, the Racist Baseball Player in ‘42?” The Atlantic, April 15, 2013.