Upchurch, Woody

Primary Position: Starting pitcher
Birthplace: Buies Creek

First, Middle Names:  Jefferson Woodrow
Date of Birth:  April 13, 1911  Date and Place of Death: Oct. 23, 1971, Buies Creek
Burial: Buies Creek Cemetery, Lillington, NC

High School: Buies Creek High School, Buies Creek
College: Campbell University, Buies Creek

Bats: R Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-0, 180
Debut Year: 1935        Final Year: 1936          Years Played: 2
Team and Years: Philadelphia Athletics, 1935-36

Career Summary
G          W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
10        0          2          0         7.42     43.2     8          -0.3

Woody Upchurch was a star pitcher in the semipro leagues that flourished in North Carolina before World War II. He shined for teams like the Ayden Aces and the Dr. Pepper Bottlers.  Not so much, though, for the Philadelphia Athletics. He pitched 10 games over two seasons for the American League club, gave up almost eight runs a game, and was back in Ayden.

Jefferson Woodrow was born in 1911 near Buies Creek in Harnett County, one of Jeff Davis and Virginia Upchurch’s eight children. His father was a farmer and prominent merchant in town.

Upchurch attended Buies Creek High School and Campbell Junior College, a local school that’s now a university. He played baseball and football there. After graduating in 1930, he pitched for several independent clubs in the basement of the minor leagues in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi before graduating in 1932 to the Class B Bulls in Durham, North Carolina.

Connie Mack, manager of the last-place Athletics, was desperate for pitching when he signed Upchurch, the lefty ace of Ayden, North Carolina, at the end of the 1935 season. Considering his previous competition consisted primarily of shopkeepers and farmers, the rookie had a decent outing in his debut at Shibe Park in Philadelphia on Sept. 14. He pitched a complete game, giving up three earned runs in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Upchurch appeared in nine more game stretching into the next season and was released in May 1936. He was back with the shopkeepers and farmers in Ayden within a week.

Upchurch was driving through Dunn, North Carolina, that October when a truck hauling bricks slammed into his car. He broke several ribs and his left arm, said the newspapers, was “badly mangled.” He recovered, but his pitching days were over.[I]

He managed semipro clubs for a couple of seasons before retiring to his farm near Buies Creek in 1940.

He and his wife, Agnes, had one child, Woodrow Jr., who became a prominent agricultural writer whose stories and columns ran in newspapers across the state.

Upchurch died in 1971 from complications of throat cancer.

[I] “Woody Upchurch Hurt in Harnett Accident.” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), Oct 10, 1936.