Friday, April 24, 2009



Throughout the post World War II years, minor league baseball covered most of the United States. There were well over a dozen teams in Georgia alone. The Georgia State League was founded in 1948. The next year Herschel Lovett entered a team in the league which played in the newly constructed Lovett Park. The GreenSox were one of the more successful teams in the league, which folded in 1956.

Baseball was big in Dublin in 1958. Mike Belote led the Pirates to the championship of the Little League. The Babe Ruth League, sponsored by local businesses, played some of their games at Lovett Park. They boys of eastern Laurens County were forming a new league. Cadwell High School was vying for the 5-C championship. Dublin had a team in the semi-pro Southern Pines League.

After one year without baseball, Dublin returned to the minor leagues, this time in the Georgia-Florida League. The team was supported by a group of local men headed by J. Elmer Mackey and A.O. Hadden. Local boys worked in the concession stands and around the park. The new team was associated with the Baltimore Orioles and were known as the Dublin Orioles.

The Georgia-Florida League had six teams in its Georgia division: the Dublin Orioles, the Valdosta Tigers, the Albany Cardinals, the Brunswick Phillies, the Thomasville Dodgers, and the Waycross Braves.

The Dublin team, which heretofore had veteran baseball men at the helm, took a chance on a 27 year old player who had bounced around the minor leagues for ten years. Before he began his major league managing career, Earl Sidney Weaver began his minor league career as a 17 year old in West Frankfort in 1948. He enjoyed his best seasons in the minor league at St. Joseph in 1949, Omaha in 1951, and Denver in 1954. In 1957, he played his last season as a regular player with Fitzgerald in the Georgia-Florida League.

During the 1958 season, Earl played in thirty seven games with twenty five hits, four home runs, and twenty one runs batted in. In eighty five at bats, Weaver hit for a .294 average with six doubles and twenty seven runs scored. Earl mainly played at second base, but moved to left field when needed.

Weaver was hired as a coach for the Orioles in 1968. He finished out that season as the manager with a winning record. In his first season, he led the Orioles to the American League Championship, before losing the World Series to the "Miracle" Mets. Weaver led the Orioles to the World Championship in 1970. The Orioles won a third consecutive league title in 1971, losing to the Pirates in the World Series. The Orioles came back in 1973 and 1974 to win Eastern Division titles. Weaver's last pennant was in 1979 when the Orioles lost to the Pirates in the World Series.

Earl Weaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on August 4, 1996, becoming only the 12th manager to be enshrined. His .583 winning percentage ranks him fifth on the modern all time list. Weaver, known as a fireball when it came to arguing with umpires, was most proud of the fact that he was never fired. Weaver had more 100-win seasons than any other manager except Joe McCarthy of the Yankees. He only had one losing season, his last, in 1986.

The Orioles played well that year, especially for a new team. They were consistent winners, especially in front of the home crowd. They finished in third in both halves of the season. Albany won the first half and Valdosta the second half. The Valdosta Tigers won the post season playoff.

During the '58 season, Weaver managed two future major league stars. Dave Nicholson, a hard swinging power hitter, once signed the largest rookie contract in the history of baseball. Nicholson played seven seasons in the "big show", including a season with the Braves. His 61 home runs were overshadowed by his 573 strikeouts. Steve Barber, a fire-balling southpaw, was a member of the pitching staff of the Baltimore Orioles, which rose to prominence in the 1966 World Series. Steve led the American League in shutouts in 1961, finishing with an 18 and 12 record. Barber pitched in the majors for 15 years with many teams including three seasons with Atlanta. Despite their future major league performances Barber and Nicholson failed to receive any post season honors in the Georgia-Florida League. First baseman Dave Bednar, outfielder Dick Ewin, and pitcher Ron Pearson were named to the Ga./Fla. All-Star team. The Orioles led the league in the number of players on the team. Bob Bird was voted the most valuable player and Pearson was chosen as the most valuable pitcher for the Orioles.

The 1958 Ga./Fla. League was one of the better Class D minor leagues. Several of the players went on to play in the major leagues. Valdosta Tiger Dick McAuliffe, a three time All-Star, was regarded by many as one the best American League shortstops of the 60s. He played 16 seasons for the Tigers and the Red Sox. McAuliffe, who led the AL in runs scored in 1968, was a leader of the 1968 World Champion Tigers. Don Wert, also playing for Valdosta, led the AL in fielding percentage in '65. Wert enjoyed his best season in 1968 playing on the all-star team and third base for the World Champion Tigers. Mike Shannon, an outfielder for the Albany Cardinals, played third base for the World Champion Cardinals in 1967.

1958 was the first and only season of the Dublin Orioles. Baseball returned to Dublin in 1962 for one final season. Lovett Park was torn down nearly three decades ago. Those days are part of our past. If you like baseball, especially good baseball where the players are eager and hungry for success, there is still good old fashioned minor league ball being played nearly every summer night in Macon, Savannah, Augusta, and Columbus. The action is close and fierce, the ticket prices are low, and the food is delicious and inexpensive.

Friday, April 17, 2009


George Stallings

Miller Huggins

Wally Pipp

Frank "Home Run"


Dublin Hosts Major League Baseball

In the early years of 20th century, professional baseball teams made extra money by playing on their off days while traveling through the country by train. Dublin was a booming city in 1917. Our best ball field was located at the 12th District Fairgrounds on the Telfair Road between Troup Street and the National Guard Headquarters. Major League baseball was not followed by most Laurens Countians. The idea to have an exhibition game was proposed to two teams returning home for the start of the season. An arrangement was made to have the New York Yankees and the Boston Braves to stop in Dublin on April 1, 1917 for an exhibition game. From 1914 to 1915, the Braves held their spring training in Macon and Jones County, the home of their manager, George Stallings, and were the local favorites in those days, just like today. The Yankees trained in Macon from 1916 through 1918.

The long awaited day was here. Something went terribly wrong. It rained, and rained, and rained some more. The teams arrived around noon and sat in the train. After a few hours, the game was called. The players could not stay, they had to get on the train for a game the next day. What a cruel April Fools joke! The people of Dublin would not be denied. They again contracted with the Braves and Yankees to play an April Fool's Day game in Dublin in 1918. On the morning of the game, the teams arrived in Dublin for the first game of an eleven game exhibition series in ten southern cities, with the final game in Newark, New Jersey on the eve of opening day.

The field was ready - declared by the Yankee groundskeeper as one of the best in the South. The Braves were managed by George "The Miracle Man" Stallings, who guided them through their miracle season of 1914. That year they vaulted from last place to sweep the powerful Athletics in the World Series. For some undisclosed reason, Stallings was detained at his home and could not make the game in Dublin. 1918 was the first season that Miller "The Mighty Mite" Huggins managed the New York Yankees. Huggins managed the Yankees to three World Championships in 1923, 1927, and 1928. Huggins's Yanks also won the American League in 1921, 1922, and 1926. His 1927 Yankee team has been called the greatest ever, sporting a record of 110 wins and 44 losses. Before managing the Yankees, Huggins was a second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals and managed the team from 1913 to 1917. His determination and drive led to the penning of his other nickname, "Little Mr. Everywhere". He was one of the top stolen base leaders of the first decade of the century and was one of the all time walks leaders. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964 for his managerial success.

On the day of the exhibition game in Dublin, the Yankees were led by the power hitters Wally Pipp and Frank Baker, supported by the slick fielding Roger Peckinpaugh. Pipp, the American League Home Run champ in 1916 and 1917, is best known as the man Lou Gehrig replaced to begin his streak of consecutive games layed. He was one of the last of the power hitters in what was known as "The Dead Ball Era." Another Yankee power hitter was Frank "Home Run" Baker. Baker hit mo e home runs during the second decade of this century than any other American Leaguer. His nickname came from two famous home runs during the World Series of 1911. Baker, a slick fielding third baseman, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955. Peckinpaugh, the hustling and slick fielding shortstop, was the Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1925. Peckingpaugh is the answer to a most often asked trivia question. At the age of 23, he was the youngest manager in the history of baseball.

The Braves did not have many well known players. Maranville and Evers did not play in 1918. The best players on the team were the pitchers from the World Championship team of 1914. Tom Hughes led the National League in winning percentage in 1916. He pitched a no hitter against the Pirates in 1916, striking out the legendary Honus Wagner for the final out. Arthur Neft had a fabulous rookie season for the Braves in 1917. His record for that year was 17 and 8 with a 2.16 E.R.A., ending the season with 40 consecutive scoreless innings.

The game was set for 2:00 o'clock. A crowd of nearly two thousand came out to see the first major league game in Dublin. Veteran umpires Tom Corcoran and Jack McBride traveled with the teams and took their positions on the field. The Braves took the field first with rookie pitcher Hugh Canavan on the mound. Canavan shut out the Yanks with no base hits, but he did hit Gilhooley twice and Wally Pipp, once. Allen Russell was the starting pitcher for the Yankees giving up only three hits in his five inning stint.

The only runs of the game were scored in the top of the fifth inning. Ping Bodie singled and Roger Peckingpaugh reached first base on an error. With two on and two out, catcher Muddy Ruel, stepped to the plate. He launched a deep drive to right field, Bodie and Peckingpaugh scored. Ruel wound up on third with a triple. Ruel dashed home with the final run when Red Smith fumbled a slow roller off the bat of
Allen Russell.

George Mogridge took over in the sixth and finished the game for the Yankees allowing no hits by the Braves. Tom Hughes, the veteran Brave hurler, relieved Canavan in the sixth for the Braves, shutting out the Yankees by allowing only 2 hits.

Some fans were disappointed with the lack of offensive action, but they were thrilled by long running catches by Elmer Miller of the Yankees and Joe Kelley of the Braves. Wally Pipp excited the crowd with a one handed stab of a hard hit ball. The ball game ended in just over two hours with the score Yankees 3, Braves 0.

The teams left for Macon where they spent the night in the Dempsey Hotel. The next day the Yankees defeated the Braves again, this time 2 to 1. The Yankees finished the war shortened season with a just under .500 record. The Braves finished next to last, while the cross-town Boston Red Sox with Babe Ruth pitching defeated the Cubs in the World Series. Fifteen of the game's players left baseball to serve in the our armed forces in World War I.

Frank Gilhooley, rf 2 0 0 0 0 0
Elmer Miller, cf 3 0 0 2 0 0
Aaron Ward, 2b 4 0 1 2 1 0
Wally Pipp, 1b 3 0 0 12 0 0
Frank Baker, 3b 4 0 1 2 1 0
Roger Peckinpaugh, ss 4 1 0 2 3 0
Muddy Ruel, c 2 1 1 2 0 0
Truck Hannah, c 1 0 0 3 0 0
Allan Russell, p 2 0 0 0 4 0
George Mogridge, p 1 0 0 0 3 0

Totals 30 3 4 27 15 0
Roy Massey, lf 3 0 0 4 0 0
Ray Powell, cf 0 0 0 0 0 0
Fred Bailey, cf 1 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Kelley, cf 2 0 0 1 0 0
Al Wickland, rf 3 0 1 3 0 0
Sam Covington, 1b 3 0 1 5 0 2
* Art Wilson, ph 1 0 0 0 0 0
Red Smith, 3b 4 0 0 3 0 2
Johnny Rawlings, ss 2 0 0 6 2 2
Rip Conway, 2b 3 0 1 1 1 0
John Henry, c 3 0 0 4 3 0
Hugh Canavan, p 2 0 0 0 5 0
Tom Hughes, p 1 0 0 0 1 0
Totals 28 0 3 27 12 4
* Batted for Covington in ninth inning.

Score by innings:

New York ............... 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 - 3
Boston ................. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0

Summary - Three base hits, Ruel; Stolen bases, Gilhooley, Pipp; Sacrifice Hits,
Miller; Double Plays, Peckinpaugh, Ward, and Pipp; Bases on Balls, of Russell, 3;
Left on Bases, New York 4, Boston 5; Hit by Pitched Balls, by Mogridge (Rawlings),
by Canavan, 3 (Gilhooley 2, Pipp); hits off of Russell 3 in 5 innings, off Mogridge 0
in 4; of Canavan 2 in 5; of Hughes 2 in 4; Struck out, by Russel 1, by Mogridge 2, by
Canavan, 1; by Hughes 1. Time of game, 2:04. Umpires, Corcoran and McBride.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009






The Umpires of Lovett Park

For two small, somewhat unrespected leagues, the Georgia State League (1948-1956) and the Georgia-Florida League (1957-1963) produced four outstanding major league umpires. Two of them are listed among the greatest umpires in major league baseball’s history. This is the story of four men. Damned and cursed by players and fans of both teams wherever they played, these men in their dark suits and small-billed caps were and are deserving of the title, Mr. Blue.

During most of the years when minor league baseball was played in Dublin from 1949 through 1956 and in 1958 and 1962, many of the umpires of the Georgia State and Georgia-Florida leagues lived in Dublin, calling games here in Lovett Park and around South Georgia.

Calvin "Cal" Drummond was born in 96th District of South Carolina on June 29, 1917. At the age of thirty one, Cal began calling professional games in the Alabama State League. After a three year absence from the game, Cal resumed his career in the Georgia State League. In the years of 1952 and 1953, Drummond called games between Dublin, Sandersville, Eastman Statesboro, Vidalia, Hazelhurst, Baxley, Douglas, Fitzgerald and Jessup.

Drummond’s outstanding work earned him a promotion to the South Atlantic League, where he called games from 1954 to 1956. Another promotion came in 1957, when he was hired to work games in the prestigious Class AAA International League. Drummond’s major league career spanned the entire decade of the 1960s.

The highlight of Cal’s career came in 1966, when he umpired the World Series, which was played between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles. In 1961, just in his second year in the league, Cal was named to call the All Star game, which was played in San Francisco. In one of the more unusual calls in baseball history, Drummond’s crew was faced with an unusual dilemma.

It seems the Candlestick Park winds were unusually strong that day. When Giant pitcher Stu Miller was blown of the pitching rubber by a gust of wind, someone yelled "balk." The umpires conferred and indeed ruled that Miller’s unusual move, though unintentional, was deceiving to the runner. The call played no outcome in the game because the National League went on to win the game and Miller was named the game’s winning pitcher.

In 1969, Drummond was struck in the head by a ball. After extensive brain surgery, Cal fell into a coma for two weeks. He worked his way back to health during spring training. On May 2, while calling a game between the Iowa Cubs and Oklahoma City 89ers, Drummond took himself out the game when he felt dizzy. He returned to work the next day, hoping to make it back to the American League the next afternoon. By the end of the 7th inning, Cal felt dizzy again. He walked to the dugout, collapsed, and died a few hours later in a Des Moines hospital. Though he had not made it back to the majors, Drummond became one of the rare fatalities among big league umpires.

Russell Goetz, a 25-year-old native of Pennsylvania, joined the Georgia State League in 1955. Russ called games until the end of the league in1956. He spend two years in the Carolina League, three years in the South Atlantic League, and six years in the Pacific Coast League. In 1968, Goetz joined the umpiring crews of the American League, in which he officiated some sixteen years until he retired in 1983.

Goetz was named to the umpiring crews for the 1970 and 1975 All Star games. His career highlights came in 1973 and in 1979 when he was named to the six-man crew calling the World Series.

John Kibler debuted as a 30-year-old rookie umpire in 1958 in the Georgia-Florida League. During that season, Kibler had at least one run-in with one of the game’s greatest antagonists of umpires, Earl Weaver. Weaver played second base and managed the Dublin Orioles in their only year of existence. Kibler quickly climbed the latter from Class D minor league baseball to the major leagues. Kibler told a SI reporter of those days, "The environs were decidedly unfriendly to outstiders and the league president forbade the umpires to travel at night. I got $250 to $285 a month and one free lunch at a Tifton cafĂ© once a week. After a year in the Pioneer Association and two years in the South Atlantic League, Kibler made it to AAA ball with the American Association in 1962 and the International League in 1963. John made the show in the fall of 1963 when he was called up to the major leagues. For the next twenty five seasons, John Kibler, was known as one the National’s best umpires.

Kibler was named to call the World Series championship four times in 1971, 1978, 1982 and the infamous 1986 series when Bill Buckner’s boot of a ground ball giving the Met’s a surprising victory allowing them to stave off defeat, tie the series and go on to win in the decisive 7th game. John Kibler was named to call the 1965 All Star game in Minneapolis in just his second full season in the majors. Kibler went on to call the 1974, 1980 and 1985 all star games.

In 1983, John Kibler suffered a heart attack at the age of fifty-five. But the New York native was not about to quit. He returned the game. In 1989, Kibler retired as the game’s oldest umpire.

Harry Wendelstedt, at 23, was the youngest of Lovett’s Park major league umpires when he began calling games in 1962, the last year Dublin had a minor league ball team, the Dublin Braves, in the Georgia Florida League. The league had teams in Brunswick, Thomasville, Albany, and Moultrie. After a single season in Northwest and Texas Leagues, Harry went to the AAA International League in 1965. After three seasons of minor league ball, Harry Wendlestedt was promoted to the National League.

During his twenty-three-year hall of fame like career, Harry umpired the World Series in 1973, 1980, 1986, 1991 and 1995. In 1980 and 1985, he was named chief of the crew, the penultimate honor for any baseball umpire. Seven times from 1970 to 1990, Harry was chosen to call the National League Championship games. He called four all star games in 1968, 1976, 1983, and 1992. In the 1986 World Series, Harry Wendlestedt and John Kibler became the only Lovett Park umpires to jointly call a World Series or All Star game. Harry retired at the top of his game in 1998.

If you have never umpired a baseball game, or any game for that matter, you can never appreciate the thankless life of an umpire. I did it once and it changed my mind at the way I look at baseball. They don’t always make the right call, but never the less, it is the call, except when.....