Wood, Ken

Primary Position: Outfield
Birthplace: Lincolnton

First, Middle Names:  Kenneth Lanier
Date of Birth:  July 1, 1924      Date and Place of Death: Nov. 22, 2007, Myrtle Beach, SC
Burial: Cremated

High School: Paw Creek High School, Paw Creek, NC; Central High School, Charlotte, NC
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R              Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-0, 200
Debut Year: 1948        Final Year: 1953    Years Played: 6
Teams and Years: St. Louis Browns, 1948-51; Boston Red Sox, 1952; Washington Senators, 1952-53

Career Summary
G           AB           H           R           RBI         HR        BA.       OBP.      SLG.      WAR
342     995       223       110      143        34         .224      .298      .393      -3.3

Ken Wood was a lumbering 200-pound outfielder with a cannon for an arm and a bit of lightning in his bat. Unfortunately, he had hands of stone. He was so dreadful in the field, in fact, that his teams would have been better off without him in the lineup.

Poor defense combine with a lackluster bat to give Wood the lowest Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, of any of the more than 400 North Carolina natives who have played in the major leagues. That’s an advanced statistic that attempts to summarize a player’s total contributions to his team – his hitting, pitching, running, fielding — by estimating how many games a team can be expected to win with the player in the lineup instead of an average player coming off the bench or called up from the minors. The player’s value to his team accumulates over the course of his career, and the resulting number is expressed in plus or minus games, which can be useful yardsticks to compare players of different eras.[1] Wood has a -3.3 lifetime WAR, meaning the teams he played for during a six-year career in the majors lost more than three games with him in the lineup instead of a substitute.

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Lewis, Buddy

Primary Positions: Third base, right field
Birthplace: Gaston County

First, Middle Names:  John Kelly Jr.
Date of Birth:  Aug. 10, 1916  Date and Place of Death: Feb. 18, 2011, Gastonia, NC
Burial: Cremated

High School: Lowell High School, Lowell, NC
College: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

Bats: L Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-1, 175
Debut Year: 1935        Final Year: 1949          Years Played: 11
Team and Years: Washington Senators, 1935-41; 1945-47; 1949

Awards/Honors: NC Sports Hall of Fame, 1975; All-Star, 1938, 1947; Boys of Summer Top 100

Career Summary
G             AB         H           R            RBI       HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
1349    5261    1563    839     607      71        .297     .368     .420     +29.1

The “baby of the American League” is what they called Buddy Lewis when he broke in as the starting third baseman for the Washington Senators in 1935.[I] He was all of 19 years old, just a year or so removed from American Legion ball back home in Gastonia, North Carolina. Sportswriters speculated whether one razor blade would last him the season.

He may have been a fresh-faced teenager but there was a reason why he was starting in the majors. He could hit, and he only got better as he matured — and presumably needed more razor blades. For nine seasons, Lewis was a reliable presence atop the Senators’ lineup, hitting close to .300 each year. No telling how much better he would have been if he didn’t take three years off to fight a war. Unlike so many ballplayers who spent World War II entertaining troops by playing ball, Lewis was in the thick of it, flying transport planes on almost 400 missions over the Himalayas to ferry supplies and commandos behind enemy lines. He came back a hero, though he never thought of himself as such, and one of the most decorated of major leaguers with a Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal.

But he wasn’t the same player. Time robbed him of skills and the war stanched his appetite for a game. He played only two full seasons after he returned, and his batting average diminished. Though only 33, the lifelong Gaston County resident retired and returned home where he owned a car dealership that gradually made him wealthy. He lived a long, quiet life, became a respected elder and a devoted supporter of the American Legion, where his baseball career had begun.

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Ferrell, Rick

Player Name: Ferrell, Rick
Primary Position: Catcher
Birthplace: Durham

First, Middle Names:  Richard Benjamin
Date of Birth:  Oct. 12, 1905  Date and Place of Death: July 27, 1995, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Burial: New Garden Cemetery, Greensboro, NC

High Schools: Guilford High School, Greensboro, NC; Oak Ridge Military Academy, Oak Ridge, NC
College: Guilford College, Greensboro, NC

Bats: R Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-10, 160
Debut Year: 1929       Final Year: 1947          Years Played: 18
Teams and Years: St. Louis Browns, 1929-1933; Boston Red Sox, 1933-37; Washington Senators, 1937-41; Browns, 1941-43; Senators, 1944-45

Career Summary
G            AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
1884  6028   1692 687    734     28       .281     .378     .363     +30.8

Awards/Honors: National Baseball Hall of Fame, 1984; N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, 1965; All Star, 1933-38, 1944; Boys of Summer Top 100

Rick Ferrell, one of seven North Carolina natives in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was an unassuming farm boy from Guilford County who spent much of his time in the big leagues crouching in the shadows of some of the sport’s legendary catchers.[1] While contemporaries like Mickey Cochrane, Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett, and Bill Dickey dominated the sports pages, Ferrell quietly went about his 18 years in the majors, acquiring a reputation as a durable, defensive catcher and a smart handler of pitchers. Unlike most good-glove catchers, Ferrell could be dangerous with a bat in his hands. He could coax a timely walk and would hit around .300 each season. A seven-time All-Star, he caught the entire inaugural game for the American League in 1933 while the great Dickey sat on the bench. He ended his playing career with more games behind the plate than any other league catcher, a record that stood for almost four decades.

Only two other North Carolina major leaguers played more seasons than Ferrell. Only seven appeared in more games. He was cagey hitter with a deft feel for the strike zone, striking out only 277 times in more than 6,000 at bats. Always among the league leaders in walks, he ended his career with a .378 on-base percentage, higher than all but four other natives with at least 1,000 lifetime at bats. Thirteenth on the list of the  Boys of Summer Top 100, he is still among the leaders in a dozen career offensive categories.[2]

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Chakales, Bob

Primary Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Asheville

First, Middle Names: Robert Edward            Nickname: The Golden Greek
Date of Birth:  Aug. 10, 1927  Date and Place of Death: Feb. 18, 2010, Richmond, VA
Burial: Westhampton Memorial Park, Richmond, VA

High School: Benedictine High School, Richmond, VA
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-1, 185
Debut Year: 1951       Final Year: 1957          Years Played: 7
Teams and Years: Cleveland Indians, 1951-54; Baltimore Orioles, 1954; Chicago White Sox, 1955; Washington Senators, 1956-57; Boston Red Sox, 1957

Career Summary
G         W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
171     15       25        11        4.54     420.1  187      0.3

Bob Chakales was a serviceable and, at times, effective relief pitcher during his seven years of bouncing around the American League. When he retired, he turned an avocation, golf, into a lucrative second career building courses all over the country.

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Whisenant, Pete

Primary Positions: Centerfield, leftfield
Birthplace: Asheville

First, Middle Names: Thomas Peter
Date of Birth:  Dec. 14, 1929  Date and Place of Death: March 22, 1996, Port Charlotte, FL
Burial: Cremated

High School: Paw Creek High School, Paw Creek, NC
College: Did Not Attend

Bats: R             Throws: R        Height and Weight: 6-2, 190
Debut Year: 1952       Final Year: 1961          Years Played: 8
Teams and Years: Boston Braves, 1952; St. Louis Cardinals, 1955; Chicago Cubs, 1956; Cincinnati Redlegs, 1957-60; Cleveland Indians, 1960; Washington Senators, 1960; Minnesota  Twins, 1961; Cincinnati Reds, 1961

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
465   988    221     140     134      37       .224     .284     .399     1.6

 An intense competitor, Pete Whisenant was thought to be just a few steps from stardom when he signed his first professional contract as one of North Carolina’s most-prized prep players. It was not to be, however. After an eight-year career on seven big-league clubs, Whisenant retired as a reserve outfielder with a .224 career batting average.

He had short careers as a major-league coach and minor-league manager after his playing days and longer ones as the director of a popular baseball camp and as a businessman who owned vending machines and sold baseball memorabilia. That last endeavor led to a partnership with Pete Rose, the game’s all-time hits leaders, that didn’t end that well.

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