Gooch, Lee

Position: Left field
Birthplace: Oxford

First, Middle Names: Lee Currin
Date of Birth:  Feb 23, 1890   Date and Place of Death: May 18, 1966, Raleigh, NC
Burial: Wake Forest Cemetery, Wake Forest, NC

High School: Horner Military School, Oxford
College: Wake Forest University, Wake Forest, NC; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-0, 190
Debut Year: 1915       Final Year: 1917          Years Played: 2
Teams and Years: Cleveland Indians, 1915; Philadelphia Athletics, 1917

 Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
19       61        18       4          8          1          .295     .338     .377       0.2

Lee Gooch was worried. Wake Forest College invited him to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1960 to manage a team of baseball alumni against the varsity squad. It was the school’s way to honor one of its most-illustrious coaches, the skipper who had won more than 60 games in two glorious seasons, coming just shy of a national baseball championship. He had made the little Baptist school, then still in its hometown of Wake Forest, North Carolina, the talk of the state.[1]

But it was only two seasons more than a decade earlier and Gooch, 70, wondered whether anyone would remember or care. He had arrived early at Ernie Shore Field and fretted, nervously chain smoking while pacing the dugout as the stadium slowly filled.

The place was packed when the announcer finally got around to introducing the participants. The fans applauded generously when each player took his place along the foul line. “When the announcer called his name, Gooch removed his hat and his white hair glistened in the sun,” a newspaper reported. “The cheers were long and loud, a moment of emotion at a homecoming at the ballyard.”

Gooch let the applause shower over him, his body rigid, his face firm. They remembered. He fought back tears as he returned to the dugout.  “Here,” he said, handing his half-filled pack of cigarettes to a bystander, “take these things. I quit smoking, on doctor’s orders, years ago.”[I]

Lee Currin Gooch was born in 1890 on the family farm outside Oxford, the seat of Granville County. His father, Daniel, died when Gooch was a teenager. His mother, Mary Alice, or Allie, moved her large family of nine children to town, where she ran a boarding house.

Gooch played baseball and football for four years at Horner Military School in Oxford.[2] He graduated in 1912 at age 22, old for a high-school senior. He entered Wake Forest, then in neighboring Wake County, and was the leading hitter on the 1913 team that won a state championship. It’s puzzling, then, that the team’s hitting star would leave for the University of North Carolina. Before reporting to Chapel Hill in the fall of 1914, Gooch played outfield for the Winston-Salem Twins, his first professional team.

Newspaper reports imply that Gooch wasn’t happy about his lack of playing time at UNC and quit before the season ended to sign with the Durham, North Carolina, Bulls in the old North Carolina State League.

He got his first taste of the major leagues in 1915 when he appeared in two games for the Cleveland Indians. He hung around a little longer two years later, playing in 19 games for the Philadelphia Athletics. He was released and spent the rest of the season playing or managing for minor-league clubs in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina.

A war in Europe then intruded. Gooch was drafted in September 1917 and assigned to the Army’s 81st Infantry Division at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. Before being shipped to the Western Front the following August, Sgt. Gooch married Mary Holding, a local Wake Forest girl he had met while in school.

The division was at the front lines near Verdun, France, in early November 1918. Gooch, by then a second lieutenant, was with the 322nd Regiment that captured the ruined village of Moranville on the morning of November 9. Though it suffered heavy casualties, the regiment had to withdraw to a safer position by nightfall. It was preparing to try again two days later when the battlefield went eerily silent. The armistice had been signed. The war was over. The division returned to the United States in June 1919.

Gooch spent the next 10 years playing and managing in the minors, first in such far-off places like Maine and Washington state and later closer to his home in Oxford and then nearby Henderson, North Carolina: Greensboro, Durham, Fayetteville and Rocky Mount. As a player, he was known for his potent bat and slick outfield defense. Only twice did his average dip below .300, and he hit three home runs in a game in 1927. He won two pennants as a manager and even tried his hand coaching the kids at Trinity College, now Duke University, in Durham for one season.

Approaching 40 in 1929, Gooch retired from baseball to spend fulltime on his second career, the one that paid the bills. He had managed or owned tobacco warehouses in the offseasons since the early 1920s.

Gooch had been out of baseball for two decades when he took over the Wake Forest team in 1949. He said that he was “glad to get back to my first love.”[II] He also said he liked his club’s chances. He inherited a veteran team with 15 returning players, including future All-America’s Charlie Teague at second base and Gene Hooks at third. Russell Batchelor, the conference’s best catcher, was back, as was a trio of savvy pitchers: Vernon “Deacon” Mustian, Moe Bauer and Harry Nicholas.

The team sent a message in the opener by pounding out 15 hits in trouncing Randolph Macon College, 14-1. The umpires mercifully called it off after five innings because of heavy rain. They followed that up with another 15 hits, including four homers, in an 11-5 walloping of Cornell University. Two Deacon pitchers then combined to toss a no-hitter against Lumberton’s minor-league team. Wake Forest beat them 17-0 two weeks later.

The winning streak reached 20, one of the longest in collegiate history in the state. Their games were drawing overflow crowds. Good pitching and harmony were the ingredients of success, their rotund coach said. “There’s not the least bit of friction,” Gooch noted. “When a sub goes in, he slapped on the back by the man he replaces. There’s hustle, spirit, fight and scrapping on every play. The boys go all out to win.”[III]

Wake Forest ended up 38-6. Against college teams, it lost only two games. The runaway winner of the Southern Conference faced Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA double-elimination tournament. Wake won two straight. The heavily favored University of Southern California, the defending national champion, was next. The Deacons won two 2-1 thrillers, both going extra innings, to advance to Wichita, Kansas, for the final round. No North Carolina college baseball team had ever advanced so far. Only the UNC basketball team in 1946 had been the runner up in a national collegiate tournament.[3]

The formidable Texas Longhorns, a perennial baseball powerhouse, proved to be too much. They handed Wake its worst drubbing of the year in the first game, getting 15 hits on the way to a 8-1 victory. The second game was even worst, a 10-3 loss.

More than a thousand fans, though, greeted the Deacons when they landed at Raleigh-Durham Airport after the tournament. Their coach, though, wasn’t with them to bask in the applause. He followed on a train. Like a lot of baseball players, Gooch was very superstitious. He carried a rabbit’s foot wherever he went, never rode on airplanes and wouldn’t allow photographers in the dugout during games.[IV]

The Deacons again had the class of the conference in 1950, and everyone expected them to repeat as champions. Many thought they would win it all this time. Though it won 31 more games and the Southern Conference, the team faltered in the first round of the NCAA tournament, losing to eventual champion University of Alabama.

After two championship seasons, amassing 69 wins in 81 games, Gooch retired. He was 60 and getting too old, he said. The tobacco warehouses needed his attention, he said.

He and Mary lived their final years in Wake Forest. She died in 1959. Gooch died of a heart attack seven years later.

Footnotes
[1] Founded in 1834 in Wake Forest, the school moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1956.
[2] James Hunter Horner opened a secondary school on the outskirts of Oxford in 1855. His nephew, Jerome Horner, turned it into a military school in 1880. It was a great success until a fire burned down the barracks in 1913, the year after Lee Gooch graduated. It reopened in Charlotte, North Carolina, a year later and officially closed in 1920. (Anderson, Jean B. “Horner School,” NCPedia, 2006. https://www.ncpedia.org/horner-school).
[3] The 1949 tournament was the third NCAA-sanctioned tournament to determine a national baseball champion. The championship round was played for the first and only time in Wichita, KS. It moved to Omaha, NB, in 1950 where it’s been ever since.

References
[I] Helms, Herman. “Homecomings, at 76, Can Be Painful.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, April 10, 1960.
[II] “Gooch Named Deacon Coach for Baseball.” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), Feb 13, 1949.
[III] Associated Press. “Gooch Attributes Wake’s Success to Team Spirit.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, May 11, 1949.
[IV] Garrison, Wilton. “Wilton Garrison’s Sports Parade.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, February 24, 1951.

 

 

Yount, Eddie

Player Name: Yount, Eddie
Position: Outfield
Birthplace: Newton

First, Middle Names: Floyd Edwin   
Date of Birth:  Dec. 19, 1916 Date and Place of Death: Oct. 27, 1973, Newton
Burial: Eastview Cemetery, Newton

High School: Undetermined
College: Wake Forest University, Wake Forest, NC

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-1, 185
Debut Year: 1937       Final Year: 1939          Years Played: 2
Teams and Years: Philadelphia Athletics, 1937; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1939

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
6         9          2          1          1            0          .222     .222     .222     -0.1

Eddie Yount’s big-league career was brief and undistinguished: six games over two seasons, a couple of years apart. In a minor-league career that stretched over 13 years, however, he was a feared slugger and the beloved manager of his hometown team.

Floyd Edwin Yount was born in 1916 in Newton in Catawba County, the younger of two sons of Floyd and Annie Yount. Floyd owned a grocery store where young Eddie and his brother, Sidney, worked while growing up. We can assume that he graduated from old Newton High School but no evidence has surfaced to confirm that.[1]

We do know that he attended Wake Forest College in Wake County, North Carolina. He very likely played baseball, though, again, no surviving records indicate that he did, because the Philadelphia Athletic ssigned him when he graduated in 1937.

Yount played in four games for the A’s at the end of that season and then pinched hit in two games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1939. That was the extent of his major-league career.

He had a more satisfying career in the Army. Yount enlisted about a week after Pearl Harbor in 1942 and started playing baseball while stationed with the 12th Armored Division in Camp Campbell, Kentucky. He began managing the team in 1943 and also attended special services school at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The division was sent to Europe in 1945, and its team started playing again after Germany surrendered.[I]

Yount continued to play, coach and manage in the minor leagues when he returned home in 1946. He hit .420 two years later as the player-manager of the Newton-Conover Twins in the Western Carolina League, which occupied the very lowest rung in professional baseball. None of its teams was affiliated with a big-league club. He managed and caught for the Twins for four years and was among the league’s leading hitters each year. Yount attributed some of his offensive prowess to a juiced ball – a “rabbit ball,” he called it – and slick infields that turned routine grounders into singles through the holes.[II]

Well-liked by teammates and fans, the homegrown manager had to step aside in 1951 because of vision problems in his left eye.[2] He tried to stage a comeback the following season by was forced to retire after only 51 games. Trying to see out of the eye, he said, was like driving through a thick fog. He put himself back on the roster because he thought the struggling team needed him. Yount still managed to hit .305 with one eye.[III]

After baseball, he was a salesman at a flour mill for a time and then opened a general store in Newton.

His wife, Margaret, died in 1967. A native of Scotland, she had met Yount in Toronto, Ontario, while he was playing ball there. They got married in 1941 and had no children.

Yount committed suicide in 1973.


Footnotes
[1] Newton’s first high school was built in 1923. It burned and was rebuilt in the 1930s. “North Main Avenue Historic District.” Living Places Neighborhoods, https://www.livingplaces.com/NC/Catawba_County/Newton_City/North_Main_Avenue_Historic_District.html).
[2] Eye specialists diagnosed Andrews’ problem as “chorditis.” The modern, medical definition of the condition relates to inflammation of the vocal cords.

References
[I] Bedingfield, Gary. “Eddie Yount.” Baseball in Wartime. https://www.baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/yount_eddie.htm
[II][1] Helms, Herman. “Baseball’s Leading Hitter Awes ‘Em.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, July 21, 1948.
[III] _________ “Sport Shorts.” Charlotte (NC) Observer, May 22, 1951.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wynne, Bill

Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Neuse

First, Middle Names: William Andrew

Date of Birth:  March 27, 1869          Date and Place of Death: Aug. 7, 1951, Raleigh, NC
Burial: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh

High School: Undetermined
College: Wake Forest University, Wake Forest, NC

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-11, 161
Debut Year: 1894       Final Year: 1894          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Washington Senators

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
1          0          1          0          6.75     8.0       2          -0.2

Bill Wynne was the first North Carolinian to pitch in the major leagues. Only outfielder Charley Jones of Alamance County preceded him to the majors – by about 20 years. Jones was a party-loving ladies’ man, known as the Knight of the Limitless Linen, and a superstar of early baseball. Wynne had a forgettable career that lasted all of eight innings. He didn’t hang around long enough to acquire a reputation or earn a nickname. If it centered on the baseball diamond, Wynne’s story would end about here. Baseball, however, was little more than a footnote in the life of this unconventional man.

Telephones and radios and, of all things, bicycles, play far larger roles in Wynne’s story. He was North Carolina’s most-famous cyclist of the 19th century, riding thousands of miles and capturing headlines wherever he went and thrilling audiences with daredevil stunts. A tinkerer with electricity since childhood, Wynne started a telephone company after his brief baseball career that provided some of the first phone service in Raleigh, North Carolina, and he waged a decades-long and, in the end, quixotic fight against his main competitor, the grasping monopoly that was Southern Bell. Wynne then operated the first radio station in the capital and in several Eastern North Carolina towns. Oh, and he also found time to open a drug store up in the mountains.

This eccentric life started on a farm along Barton’s Creek in central Wake County where William Andrew Wynne was born in 1869, four years after Appomattox. His parents, William and Elizabeth, or Lizzie, moved to Raleigh two years later. Except for long-distance jaunts on his bicycle or summers in the minor leagues, Wynne would never leave.

There’s nothing in the surviving archives that hints of Wynne’s early baseball exploits – no accounts of high-school no hitters or fond recollections of games in cow pastures. Wynne tells us in a newspaper interview in 1930, when he was 61, about some of the other things that helped form him. The telegraph, for instance. “They couldn’t keep me away from there,” he said of the local telegraph office. “They had a few old sets they would let interested boys work with and I spent most of my time down there when I wasn’t out on the streets trying to build a line of my own.”[I]

In a hint of what was to come, Wynne succeeded, when he was 10, in building a crude, but working telephone system for his neighborhood. He strung tin cans that his uncle custom made for the project into every house along two blocks of South Hillsboro Street. Rubber bladders from snuff cans served as speakers. “Just wet it and stretch it over the can and when it got dry you could talk around the block with it, if the string was dry,” he explained.[II]

We know that Wynne played baseball at Wake Forest College, then still in Wake County. The rules being what they were at the time, he once pitched Wake Forest to a victory over Trinity College, now Duke University in nearby Durham, and then pitched for Trinity the next day against a different opponent.

It was the bicycle, though, that initially brought Wynne to prominence. The first contraption that resembles a bicycle dates to the late 18th century. Bike design proceeded along – peddles were added and wheel size got smaller and then bigger – until the 1870s when the so-called high wheeler was the dominate bike. We’ve all seen photos of this odd vehicle with the huge front wheel and the tiny rear one. The rider, usually a daring young man, sat high above the street where he could reach breakneck, literally, speed. Quickly stopping one of those things was near impossible, and a rut or bump in the road could have devastating results. Sensible people and most horses shied away. “That bicycle has scared more horses than the automobile,” Wynne remembered.[III]

The advent of the bike we know today — chain-driven with uniform-sized wheels — in the 1880s changed everything. In a couple of decades before the coming of automobiles, people suddenly had a safe, fast way to get around that they didn’t have to feed, shelter, and clean up after. The golden age of bicycles, short-lived in America, dawned.

They became a popular form of personal transportation, thanks in part to promoters like Bill Wynne. He rode everywhere on one, or so it seemed, because his name appears in newspapers wherever he stopped. He rode from Raleigh to Maine in 1891, stopping along the way to pitch in local baseball games at $5 a game. That was good money for a young man then, since it amounts to about $140 today. Wynne covered the 1,100 miles in about six weeks and was welcomed with a parade in Bangor.  

Like avid bikers John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor and 100,000 other Americans, Wynne belonged to the League of American Wheelman, the most-prominent advocacy group for road improvements before the arrival of automobiles. He, for instance, repeated his trip to Maine in 1909, starting from Atlanta that time, to highlight the route of a highway that the league proposed.

Though he may have shared a love of bikes with Rockefeller and Astor, Bill Wynne rode one like Evel Knievel. For much of the 1890s, Wynne traveled the Southeast thrilling crowds at county fairs, conventions and holiday celebrations with aerial, acrobatic displays of daring do on a bicycle. He rode down the long steps at the Customs House in Norfolk, Virginia, and the U.S. Capitol and was chased away from doing the same at the Washington Monument. At the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, he showed a real streak of Knievel wackiness. He raced a boat down a 500-yard-long chute into a lake. Mathematicians on the scene estimated that he reached speeds approaching 60 miles an hour. “Even before a cheer could be given or the dazed onlookers realized that the start had been made, all was over,” the newspaper reported. “They had whizzed by, blurred and indistinct, in the twinkling of an eye.”[IV]

The boat hit the water and bounced high in the air. Wynne hit the water and sank. He was safely pulled from the lake and was disappointed to learn that the boat had beat him by two seconds.

This, though, is supposed to be a story about a baseball player, but that’s the part of Wynne’s life that hardest to decipher. There is a smattering of newspaper clips about his time in the minor leagues but nothing before 1894 when Wynne debuted with the Washington Senators. Professional baseball then consisted of the 12-team National League. Why Wynne was standing on the mound to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Phillies in Philadelphia is a mystery. He completed the game, an 11-5 losing effort to a powerful Phillies team that featured three future Hall of Famers. Wynne gave up six earned runs and walked eight. He left the mound in the eighth inning that afternoon and was out of big-league baseball.

Wynne’s baseball career ended the following year after he pitched for four minor-league teams.

He got married in Raleigh that year to Mary Avera of Smithfield in adjoining Johnston County.  The wedding featured a special effect that displayed Wynne’s skills at manipulating electricity while highlighting 19th century America’s view of a woman’s role in society. “There will be a novel electrical effect,” the newspaper reported. “The initial letter of the contracting parties will be above the pulpit and when the preacher says the words which unite, the bride’s initial fades away.” The couple would remain married for more than 50 years and raise four children.[V]

Wynne started the Raleigh Telephone Company in 1902, one of four companies that provided phone service in the city. Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company, the largest provider, would be a Wynne target for the next 20 years. To fight the Bell monopoly, Wynne helped organize 61 other small, independent companies into a trade group and served as its president. He joined state lawsuits charging that Bell was violating antitrust law. In the end, it didn’t matter. Raleigh Telephone went out of business in 1921 after Bell refused to transmit its customers’ long-distance calls over its lines.

Wynne partnered with a local businessman to open a drugstore in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He managed a tire shop for a while and then opened a radio-repair store in Raleigh in 1922. From there it was a short hop to broadcasting. He and his son, Avery, started the first permanent station in Raleigh. An earlier station broadcasting from the campus of North Carolina State College quit in less than a year. Wynne later had stations in Rocky Mount and Wilson.

He was still in the radio business when he died of pneumonia in 1951.

References
[I] Reynolds, Carolyn L. “Will Wynne Has Pioneer Streak.” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), April 20, 1930.
[II] Ibid.
[III] Ibid.
[IV] “Raced on the Chute.” Roanoke News (Weldon, NC) November 21, 1895.
[V] “State News.” Roxboro (NC) Courier, May 27, 1896.

 

Allie, Gair

Position: Shortstop, third base
Birthplace: Statesville

First, Last Names: Gair Roosevelt     
Date of Birth:  Oct. 28, 1931  Date and Place of Death: Oct 14, 2016, Tucson, Ariz.
Burial: Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Tex.

High School: Statesville High School 
College: Wake Forest University, Wake Forest, NC

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-1, 190
Debut Year: 1954       Final Year: 1954          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1954

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
121      418    83      38        30        3          ,199     .294     .268     -1.5

Marjorie Allie had seen the name in a movie magazine. She liked it so much that she decided to give it her only son. Her husband, Kermit, apparently didn’t mind.[1]

Gair grew up to be a strapping six-footer by the time he went to high school, lettering in football, baseball and basketball. He may be one of the best athletes to ever play at Statesville High. He was co-captain of the football and basketball teams and made the all-conference and all-state teams. Six colleges offered him football scholarships when he graduated in 1950, but Allie chose Wake Forest College because there he would play baseball.

The college season apparently wasn’t enough because Allie played for a semipro team in Nova Scotia in the summer of 1951. A teammate knew a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates, the teammate wrote, had to check out this shortstop Allie. That led to a tryout at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Branch Rickey, the team’s general manager and among the shrewdest judges of baseball talent, offered Allie $20,000 to sign, or about $200,000 in current dollars. It was an eye-opening amount back then.

Goodbye Wake Forest; hello New Orleans.

There, Allie spent 1952 playing for the Pirates’ Class AA team. He hit only .216, but he impressed his coaches with his deft fielding and power. At 190 pounds, Allie was big for the diminutive shortstops of the era, who went by nicknames like Pee Wee and Scooter. Rickey was sure his powerfully built shortstop was a key piece to a pennant.

He invited Allie to train with the big-league club in Havana in the spring of 1953, but Allie broke his leg sliding into home, ending his season. He effectively ended his major-league career the following year when he made the club as the starting shortstop but hit a horrendous .199 in 121 games. He found himself competing for the job in the spring of 1955 with Dick Groat, the Duke University star who had returned from military service. Groat would anchor the Pirates’ infield for 14 years, winning a MVP award and playing in two World Series.

Allie went back to the minors where he lingered until 1961, with the Army claiming two of those years.

He settled in San Antonio, Texas, after baseball. He owned several bars and restaurants, ran unsuccessfully for the town council in 1963 on a platform of expanding the city’s parks and playgrounds, worked as an executive for many years for Falstaff Brewing Co., and raised five children with his second wife, Rita.[2]

Allie died in 2016, two weeks shy of his 85th birthday.

Footnotes
[1]Marjorie’s other children were also unusually named: Carrola, Sherwyne and Deema.
[2]Allie’s first bar, The Tiffany, was the meeting place of local sports figures. He also played for a recreational softball team at the time called the Flamingo Lounge Lizards. Allie opened the Raffle Restaurant and Bar in San Antonio in 1987. He ran it with his family until 2015.