Sunday, December 16, 2012



When he was 12, Quincy Trouppe used to hang out on Compton and Market Streets in St. Louis. He dreamed about the lucky days when he would race down the street and snatch up a ball flying out of Stars Park, where the St. Louis Stars of the old Negro leagues played. He redeemed those balls for tickets into the stadium to see his heroes play. It was his dream that one day he would be on that very diamond and other diamonds like it around the country. More than twenty years would elapse before black men would be allowed to play Major League Baseball. And, Quincy Trouppe was one of the first.

It was in the fading twilight of his illustrious baseball career that this Dublin man rose to the top of the game as the first African American catcher in the American League. But, all too soon, his life long dream turned into a disheartening nightmare when he was rejected by the game he loved so much.

Quincy Trouppe was born on December 25, 1912 in Dublin, Georgia. His family moved to St. Louis, Missouri before he reached the age of ten. At the age of 18, Quincy Trouppe realized his dream and began his professional baseball career with the St. Louis Stars in 1931. Over the next twenty seasons, Trouppe starred with the Homestead Grays, Kansas City Monarchs, and the Cleveland Buckeyes as well as a host of other teams in his eight seasons in the Mexican League.

Trouppe starred for the West team in five all-star games, four as a catcher from 1945 through 48. He managed the Buckeyes to Negro American League titles in 1945 and 1947 and one World Championship in 1945. After the 1936 season, Trouppe took off a year from baseball to box, having won a major heavyweight tournament title in 1936.

It was in October 1951 after returning from Mexico when Quincey got a call, one which would change his life forever, or so he thought. A bellboy in a hotel lobby in Caracas, Venezuela called Trouppe to the phone. On the other end of the line was Hank Greenberg, a former Detroit Tiger home run champion and a future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Greenberg, a member of the front office of the Cleveland Indians, invited Quincy, who had another outstanding season in the Winter Leagues, to attend training camp with the Indians in the spring of 1952, sixty years ago this month.

"I was out of words," Quincy recalled in his autobiography, Twenty Years Too Soon. Greenberg offered Trouppe a minor league contract in Indianapolis But with the surprise proposal came an opportunity to make the big league team. It was the chance that Quincy Trouppe had been waiting for twenty years.

Excited to be in the big leagues, Quincy considered that he was in his best shape in many years. "No one who has ever broken into organized ball could have felt better than I did when I inked my name to that new Cleveland Indians contract," Trouppe wrote a quarter of a century later.

During spring training, Trouppe caught every third game and outhit the other two catchers, two to one. "I caught Early Wynn," a Hall of Fame pitcher, "for seventeen straight scoreless innings," he recalled. Trouppe also caught Hall of Famers, Bob Lemon and Bob Feller. Feller was considered as one of the greatest right-handed pitchers in baseball history.

In 1952, during the sunset of his career, Feller was beginning to struggle. Trouppe suggested to Indian fast baller that he develop a good change up and mix up his pitches. "I suggested this to Bob, and he pitched a shut out," said Trouppe, who never forgot the next day when Feller came up to him before the next game and said, "Quincy, you called a very good game yesterday. You used excellent judgment on the hitters, and you also knew how to use my most effective pitch. Keep up the good work."

It was on the last day of April 1952 at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, when Quincy, wearing number 16 on the back of his gray flannel road uniform, played in his first game. At the age of 39 years, four months and five days, Quincey Trouppe became one of the oldest rookies in the history of baseball, a mark surpassed only by a scant few other older former Negro League stars.

Three days later at Griffith Stadium on a cool mid-spring Saturday in Washington, D.C., Quincy was catching when Indian manager Al Lopez, also a member of the Hall of Fame, called to the bullpen and signaled for Sam "Toothpick" Jones, Quincy's old Cleveland Buckeye teammate to come in to pitch in relief. Jones came into the game with one out trying to hold the Senators to a 5-4 lead.  (Left-Trouppe-Jones)

Whether anyone among the 10,257 paid fans in the crowd noticed it or not, with Jones' first pitch to Senator's outfielder, Sam Mele, Quincy Trouppe and Sam Jones became the first black battery in American League history. The historic event seemingly went unnoticed in the sports pages across the country. Several years earlier, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe, of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League, became the first black battery in Major League history.

The American League record book was amended when the Indians tied an American League record when they used twenty-three players in a nine-inning game. After the game, Mele, who would pilot the Minnesota Twins to the 1965 American League Championship, was traded to the Chicago White Sox.

Trouppe was used sparingly, catching behind veteran Birdie Tebbetts, some six weeks older than Quincy and the decade younger catcher, Jim Hegan.

May 10, 1952 was a bittersweet day for Quincy Trouppe. For the first time in his major league career, Quincy Trouppe was a starting catcher in the major leagues. To make the game sweeter, Trouppe was playing against the Browns from his home in St. Louis. Early Wynn was pitching for the Indians, Tommy Byrne, a former Yankee star pitcher, for the visiting Browns.

Quincy came up to bat in the bottom of the third inning. He stroked his first Major League hit, a solid single to left, and scored his first major league run on Bobby Avila's single. It would be his last major league hit and his last major league run. It would be his last game in the major leagues.

In his ten-game stint with the Indians, Quincy, who got few opportunities to hit, posted a dismal .100 batting average, well below his .280 plus career average. Behind the plate, Quincy was as effective as ever, handling 25 chances without a single error and leaving the game of with a perfect major league fielding percentage.

While Quincy was working out the next day, he got a message to report to Greenberg in Manager Lopez's office. The news wasn't good. He was being demoted down to the farm team in Indianapolis. "This hit with such a force that I was speechless for a few minutes," Trouppe remembered. The veteran catcher spoke up in his defense that he felt he was being mistreated. Greenberg merely responded that the Indians felt that with him, they had no record to go on.

Quincy Trouppe became even more upset. During his 21 seasons in professional baseball, Trouppe had proven that he was one of the best catchers in Negro League history. He possessed a proven record of working with younger players and the game's greatest players as well.

Trouppe had caught some of the greatest pitchers in the game, including the legendary Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean. He was once a roommate of Hall of Famer, Monte Irvin. Quincy played with and against many of the greatest players in the Negro League and baseball, period. His National League counterpart, Roy Campanella, had recommended him to the Indians.

Quincy Trouppe finished his career in Indianapolis before returning to St. Louis for a new life with his new wife, Myralin. Before the beginning of the 1953 season, the St. Louis Cardinals hired Quincy as a scout. Trouppe scoured the country for the best and most promising players.

Very quickly, he identified two outstanding young hitters and fielders. He began talking to the youngsters about signing with his team. Both were amenable and agreed to sign. But, when Trouppe presented his recommendations to the Cards' management, he was told not to offer the young men any contracts. The two men signed with other teams, one with Pittsburgh and the other with the Cubs. They were Roberto Clemente and Ernie Banks, two of the game's all time greatest players.

So you see this former Dublin man, who many regard as one of the best catchers in the history of the Negro Leagues, was denied the chance he so richly deserved. Nor was he ever praised by his team for his best two scouting recommendations, ones which were systematically rejected by his supervisors.

Despite the broken dreams and the missed opportunities, it was in the old days, his days, during the Golden Age of Baseball, when Quincey Trouppe, of Dublin, Georgia, was a shining star in a heaven of baseball greats.

My first column about Quincey Trouppe from 1997.

Dublin's All Star Player

Quincy Trouppe was born in Dublin on Christmas Day of 1912.  He was the youngest of ten children.  His family's last name, originally spelled Troupe, was taken after the Civil War.  His ancestors were probably slaves of Gov. George M. Troup of Dublin.  The Troupes moved to St. Louis around the time of World War I.

Trouppe broke into professional baseball as a catcher in 1931.  The St. Louis Stars of the Negro Leagues signed Trouppe to a contract which paid him $80.00 per month.  The Stars won the league championship that year.  In 1932 he played with the Detroit Wolves, the Homestead Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs.  The following year he played for the Bismark Cubs and Chicago American Giants, the champions of 1933.  Trouppe played with the Bismark Cubs from 1934 through 1936.  After retiring in 1937, he came back to play with the Indianapolis ABC's for 2 years.  In 1938, the fans voted Trouppe to the Western Division All Star team as an outfielder.

Trouppe spent eight seasons in the Mexican Leagues with the Monterey and Mexico City teams  from 1939 to 1944 and from 1950 to 1951. While playing and managing in Mexico, Trouppe hit .307, .337, and .306 with Monterey and .364 and .301 with Mexico City.  Trouppe sought the help of the Mexican League President in 1944 to allow him to continue playing in Mexico.  Trouppe returned from Mexico late in 1944 to become a player/manager of the Cleveland Buckeyes.  Trouppe led the Buckeyes to the championship of the Negro American League.  While hitting only .245 during the regular season, Trouppe hit .400 leading the Buckeyes to a sweep of Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays in the World Series.  Quincy Trouppe finished his last two seasons with Buckeyes hitting .313 and .352. His team won one more American League pennant, but lost the World Series to the New York Cubans.  Trouppe then played for the Chicago American Giants in 1948, hitting .342 with 10 home runs.  He then left the country again to play for Drummondville, Canada of the Provincial League in 1949 where he hit for a .282 average.  In 1950 and 1951 Trouppe returned to the Mexican League playing for Guadalajara and hitting .283 and .252.   During the off seasons he played in the winter leagues in Cuba (1950-1), Columbia (1953-4), Venezuela (1945-7, 1951-3), Puerto Rico (1941-2, 1944-5, 1947-50), and Venezuela.   It was during one of his eight seasons in Mexico that he added the extra "p" to  his last name. Trouppe managed the Caguas team to the Championship of the 1947-8 Winter League in Puerto Rico.

During the latter half of his career, Trouppe was considered one of the best catchers in the league.  He was known for his superior handling of pitchers.  He earned the nickname of "Big Train" and "Baby Quincy."  Trouppe, a somewhat powerful switch hitter, used a heavy bat and was a good curve ball hitter.  Most of his power came from the right side.  A typical catcher, Quincy was not too swift on the base paths.  Among his teammates were the legendary Stachel Page, "Cool Papa" Bell, Buck Leonard, Ray Dandrige, and Josh Gibson.  Until 1947 Negro leaguers were systematically excluded from the major leagues.  After fellow Georgian Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Negro leaguers slowly began to get positions on major league teams.  The Cleveland Indians, who had signed the first Negro Leaguer in the American League, decided to give Quincy Trouppe a tryout.  Quincy reported to spring training in 1952.  At the age of thirty nine he had a hard time competing with the young defensive star catcher Jim Hegan.  Hall of Fame Cleveland pitcher, Bob Feller,  described Trouppe as "having a likeable personality and very hard-working."  Feller knew nothing of Quincy's hitting skills, but he stated that "Quincy was a very good receiver.  He had an excellent arm, kind of like a Roy Campanella or Gabby Hartnett.  He was very good calling pitches and blocked the bad pitches well."  Feller had seen Quincy when he played for the Buckeyes and remembered that "he was a very good manager and a true gentlemen."

Quincy played in six games and managed only one hit in ten at bats.  Trouppe didn't think he had gotten the chance he deserved and declined the Indians offer to play on their Triple A farm team in Indianapolis.  The St. Louis Cardinals hired Trouppe as a scout from 1953 through 1956.  Quincy lost a chance to sign future Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks.  He tried to sign Roberto Clemente with the Cardinals, but lost out to the Pirates.

Quincy Trouppe was an all star in 17 of his 23 seasons in the Negro League.  He spent seven years as a catcher- manager.  He played in five East/West All Star Games, with his team winning each time.   He ended his career with a .311 lifetime  batting average, 25th highest in the history of the Negro Leagues.  Quincy was selected an all-star in half of his twelve seasons in winter ball with a lifetime batting average of .304 in the Mexican League and .254 in Cuba.

In his latter years Quincy Trouppe became somewhat of an archivist of the Negro Leagues.  In 1977 he wrote an unpublished autobiography "20 Years Too Soon."  His collection of memorabilia and information led to the establishment of a Negro League Hall of Fame in St. Louis and was used by Ken Burns in his PBS documentary, "Baseball."  Quincey Trouppe died in Creve Coeur, Missouri on Aug. 10, 1993.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


When Irish Bats Were Burning.

The final score was Dublin 34, Sandersville 17. No, it wasn't a football score from the early 1960s. Nor was it the final tally of a basketball game back in the 1940s. What happened on the 6th day of June in 1954 was nothing less than unbelievable. For the 51 points on the scoreboard that day came not on the gridiron nor on the hardwood courts, but on the diamond of Lovett Park. In the near century and one half of the history of professional baseball, only a couple of games have ever seen more than fifty runs scored in a single nine-inning game. This is the story of one of those games.

The year was 1954. Dublin's entry in the Georgia State League, which had formerly played under the title of the Green Sox, was enjoying a fine early season as the Dublin Irish. The Irish, managed by George Kinnamon, were just a few games out of first place behind the Vidalia Indians, the eventual league champs. Dwelling in the cellar were the hapless Sandersville Wacos in the year 1 B.Mc. (Before McCovey). In the following season, the Washington County team would sign future Hall of Fame slugger Willie McCovey, who would help to elevate the team to a 2nd place finish in 1955.

The two teams met in a two-game weekend series in early June. In the first game on Saturday night, the Irish scored four runs in the top of the 10th inning to win, 6-2.

"It was a hot Sunday afternoon, one of the hottest I ever remembered," recalled Irish bat boy Thurston Branch. Ray Stefanik took the mound for the Irish. Manager George Kinnamon, wearing the tools of ignorance, gave regular catcher, Denton Lakatosh, a well deserved day off. The Wacos jumped out to an early 6-0 lead on the Irish starter with three runs coming on Rudy Warren's four bagger over the right field fence in the top of the first and another three runs in the top of the second stanza with three hits, three Irish errors, and two bases on balls.

Sandersville hurler Alfredo Diaz held the Dublin nine scoreless in the first; but ran into a bit of trouble in the home half of the second inning. The Irish came roaring back, sending an even dozen men to the plate. Diaz was relieved by Richard Schurrer, who could only retire one Dublin hitter. Willard Moore came on as the third Waco pitcher of the inning. Moore finally retired the Irish, but not before the men in green scored eight runs on five hits and four walks.

Stefanik shut out the opposition for the next four innings. But, it was hot, real hot. Bat boy Branch remembered it being so hot that the manager put some green liquid in the water bucket to keep his team from having a heat stroke. Branch remembered the pitchers putting cold towels over their faces while they rested on a coolest spot on the bench between innings.

In the bottom of the third, it was obvious that the havoc reeking Irish were not about to cool down. Another dozen men stepped into the batter's box in the third frame of the game. Seven crossed the plate behind two home runs, a double, two singles, two sacrifices, three bases on balls, a hit batter, and one Sandersville miscue. Moore, who was winless during the season and later picked up by the Irish, was yanked in favor of another Waco reliever, Dick Lazicky (Lazenby), who appeared in his first and last game of the season.

Leading 15-6 in the bottom of the fourth, the Irish poured it on with four singles, a walk, and yet two more Waco errors. Out of pitchers, Ray Garman, who started in the outfield, was sacrificed to finish the game for the boys from Sandersville. The Irish scored four in the fourth. Not to be outdone, the Dublin nonet scored ten coffin-nailing runs in the fifth with one homer, four doubles, five singles, two errors, one walk, and one wild pitch to take a 29-6 lead.

One would think with the blazing June sun bearing down on them, the Irish would go to the plate swinging at anything, just to get a cool, early shower. They did swing at anything. The trouble was they kept whacking and cracking and hitting the ball. Five more Irish runners stepped on the plate in the bottom of the sixth behind a double, two errors, one walk, and one final Waco wild pitch to run the score up to 34-6.

Thurston Branch remembered that plate umpire Forder, in succumbing to the horrendous heat, requested that Branch simply roll new balls out to him instead of running fresh clean white ones out to him. The bat boy had a rough day. The Irish started the game with four bats. Before borrowing bats from the Wacos, the Irish shared an old bat salvaged from the locker room. One of the borrowed bats was good for an even dozen hits. No one knew that the team had a dozen brand new ones in an unopened box in the front office.

Pure pride took over. Garmon, who played for Dublin in 1955, held the Irish scoreless in their last two at bats in the seventh and eighth innings. Suddenly, Sandersville's hitters came alive. Exhausted Dublin starter Stefanik faltered and left the game in the seventh. Bob Vanassee came into the game for the Irish and held on. The Irish southpaw reliever gave up four runs in the seventh, six in the eighth, and a single run in the ninth, when the game ended in a 34-17, three-hour-five-minute slugfest. Ironically, Sandersville's Schurrer was saddled with the loss although he only gave up four of the thirty-four Irish tallies, while Garmon, who was left to the wolves, surrendered sixteen, not so sweet, Irish runs.

Left handed hitting Bill Shires led the Irish for the second game in row with a round tripper, a two-base hit, and three single safeties and scored six runs (one short of a modern day record) in his seven trips to the plate. Third baseman Gil Meekins, left fielder Bill Causion, and shortstop Milt Morris had four hits apiece. The Irish, in fifty-two at bats, had twenty-nine hits. Both teams combined for 11 errors on the sweltering diamond. In the words of Courier Herald sports reporter Dwight Smith, "The Irish tied the Wacos and then poured on the tar and the feathers."

League president Bill Estroff, who was in attendance and not at all happy with the result, remarked, "That was too much baseball in one day."Manager Kinnamon, the team's leading hitter, wrote in his Courier Herald column, The Pepper Box, "Someone asked me why I just didn't tell my boys to go to the plate and strike out. If I did so, I would be telling them not to do something I want them to do. So I just let the frolic ride as such. It was a big enough farce without helping it out." The veteran Kinnamon concluded, "When the ball bounces your way there's nothing one can do to stop it."

An extensive search of the Internet revealed that the most runs ever scored in a minor league game came way back on June 15, 1902 when Corsicana defeated Texarkana by the score of 51-3. The 54-run game can easily be discredited by the fact that Sunday Blue Laws forced the teams to play on a non regulation field. It was also reported that the cracker box field had no fences, while others said that the right field fence was a mere 210 feet from home plate. On April 30, 1983, El Paso defeated Beaumont, 35 to 21. Both teams were aided by nearly tropical force winds gusting out to right field. The Irish-Waco total of 51 runs in a minor league game was eventually matched on June 29, 2009 when the Lake Elsinore Storm defeated the High Desert Mavericks in a California League game, 33-18. In the big leagues, the most runs scored by both teams in a major league game came on August 25, 1922 when the Chicago Cubs outlasted the Philadelphia Phillies, 26-23 for a total of forty-nine runs.

In a sport where arguments always abound, I make the argument that the most runs ever scored in a professional game on a regulation field, not aided by 35 mph winds, came on a scorching Sunday in June at Lovett Park, right here in Dublin, nearly 57 years ago. Now when the skies are bright blue and the grass is fresh and green once again, it's time to play baseball.

I dedicate this column to my son Scotty, who taught me to love the game all over again, the memory of my good friend, the late Millard Whittle of Dexter, who loved and enjoyed an entire century of baseball and now sits in the grandstands watching his heroes play on the fields of his dreams and to my barber, Thurston Branch, who was there on that sweltering Sunday when the Irish bats were burning.


The Great Races of 1911

It wasn't exactly the Indianapolis 500. That would start twenty days later. It was more like the Dublin 1.6. It wasn't run on a circular tract, and the participants didn't race each other. They raced against the clock. But, to the thousands of locals and several hundred visitors, they were the first car races, the Great Races of 1911.

Automobiles had not been around long. The first one came to town nine years earlier, fascinating bystanders and terrorizing horses tied to the hitching posts. Five more years passed before Dublin's first automobile dealers set up shop. The thrill of the "horseless carriage" captivated the well to do men of the city. Cars became status symbols. They have always been status symbols. Bigger was better. Faster was even better.

The allure of racing charmed more than seventy five Dubliners who traveled to Savannah in 1908 to watch the international 400 mile car races. Most of the people in Dublin had never see a car race of any kind before. By the time of the 1911 races, there were an estimated 150 cars in the city.

The precursor of the Great Races came in late April 1910, when a group of men staged a hill climbing contest on Turkey Creek Hill near Dudley, from the west side of the creek up to the top of the hill. Charles Eberlein, driving a White Star car, finished first with a 35-second run. Coming in a close second was Noble Marshall, who opened the first Chevrolet franchise in town, and L.W. Miller, who owned the first car dealership in Dublin. Another hill climb was staged on the day before the Great Races, just to get everyone in the mood for speed.

Car afficionados organized themselves as the Dublin Automobile Racing Association, Inc. H.G. Stevens, a hardware store magnate, was elected president. L.J. Bowyer acted as the group's secretary, while W.L. Branch was hired as general manager to run the day to day activities of the company.

Although this racing thing was new to everyone in town, organizers had an idea of what they wanted in a race track. The Laurens County Commissioners of Roads and Revenue agreed to furnish convict labor to grade the track since most of the course was outside the city limits, which at the time extended only to the Coney Street area. Newspapers reported that the organizers "got what they wanted." Boosters claimed their track was equal to any track in the United States.

The 1.6 mile races began near the home of J.R. Robinson on what was then known as "The Chicken Road," an old Indian trail running from Hawkinsville to the Oconee River at Dublin. The racers would cross the finish line at the Carnegie Library (Dublin-Laurens Museum.)

The races were divided into four events. Cars costing less than $650.00 were placed in the "A" Class. Those autos valued at $650.00 to $950.00 were assigned to the "B" Class. All cars above that exorbitant price would race in Class "C." Class "D" would be composed of an open class of cars.

Any good race needs prizes. So the people of Dublin who wanted to see the cars race chipped in. Handsome loving cups were purchased to go along with more useful cash prizes. Winners in Class A were awarded $15.00 in cash and a $25.00 cup up to $75.00 and a $100.00 cup in Class D. Any good race needs revenue too. The race itself was free. But, a special grandstand was built on the Burts property on Bellevue. Box seats cost a dollar a head, while regular grandstand seats went for a silver half-dollar. Entry fees ranged from $5.00 for Class A to $15.00 for the open class cars of Class D.

Races need rules too. Every car was required to be a gasoline-powered stock automobile, although drivers were allowed to remove certain parts to boost their speed. No professional drivers were allowed. Every car underwent an inspection thirty minutes before the starting time.

Cars began to arrive in town on Sunday. During the practice runs, several of the cars nearly topped the 75 mph mark. One racer was so excited he drew the attention of a Dublin police officer. The policeman admonished the driver for being a little too reckless and asked him to ease up a bit. The confident motorist responded, "If you can drive this car slow, you beat me. Get in and let me show you how she can fly!" His invitation was quickly declined.

The Great Races were set for 10:00 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, May 10. All business houses closed early that morning. School kids got the day off. Inbound trains were crammed with hundreds of enthusiasts. The starting time was moved up to accommodate out of town visitors in meeting their afternoon trains back to their homes in Hawkinsville, Macon and other places. The night before the races, a crew was sent along Bellevue Avenue and the Chicken Road, known today as Bellevue Road, to sprinkle the dusty dirt avenue into ideal racing conditions. The Weather God came through with picture perfect skies. Traffic coming into town from the west was diverted at Captain W.B. Rice's home on the present grounds of the VA Hospital down to the Cotton Mill property on Marion Street. Members of the D.A.R.A. stood guard at every intersection along the track to prevent non-racers from entering the course.

Dublin's John F. Smith fell out of contention a third of the way down the course when his Maxwell blew a piston rod in the first sprint of the day. J.T. Coleman, of Hawkinsville, dropped out when his Buick 16 caught on fire and was completely destroyed.

With an obligatory 100-yard running start given to all contestants, A.M. Kea, of Dublin, driving a Maxwell A, captured first place in Class A, just ahead of J.L. Roberson, also of Dublin, at a slow poke average speed of 37mph. The two virtually equal Ford cars of the Laurens Automobile and Repair Company, driven by T.F. Dunnell and E.L. Porter, traveled 56 mph and finished 1-2 - a single second apart in the second race. Dominating the entire field was Herbert Wilson, of Hagan, Ga., driving his Cole 30 automobile. Wilson finished first in the third round of the day. In the open class, Wilson, traveling at an average speed of 65.6 mph, bested his own time with a course record of 1 minute and 28 seconds. Wilson took his second first place of the day twelve seconds ahead of F.S. Michael, of Baxley, driving a Buick 16, who took second place in the last two races. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The Great Races were an unequivocal success. In the excitement of the moment, men began plans to establish a country club with a circular race track nearby. Every one wanted bigger and better races. It would only be two more months before the races returned on the 4th of July. The excitement proved too much to the public as Dublin Police Chief J.E. Hightower had to buy and use a stopwatch to catch the speeders still on a high from the Great Races of 1911.



On a warm, early spring Friday afternoon, a baseball game was played. Not just an ordinary semi-pro game for the folks in Eastman, Georgia, it was nine-inning game between the Detroit Tigers of the American League and the Boston Braves of the National League. Four thousand avid baseball fans filled every seat and lined the perimeter of the newly constructed ball field to see several of the grand ol’ game’s finest play America’s greatest pastime.  (LEFT-DICK RUDOLH, BOSTON)

In the days before routine airline travel and obligatory spring training sites in Florida and Arizona, many teams spent their pre-seasons in places like Macon, Augusta and Columbus, Georgia. Two of those teams, the Tigers and the Braves, planned a 17-game series beginning in Columbus, extending through the Carolinas, and ending in Maryland before the start of the 1920 season.

The Boston Nationals took the first three games of the series by good margins of the 3, 5, and 3 runs in Columbus, Moultrie and Valdosta. Eastman was the fourth stop along the way. Dublin, a much larger city, would have normally been on the list. The Braves scheduled games there in 1917, 1918 and 1919. The 1917 game with the Yankees was rained out. The 1918 rematch was unforgettable. The Braves’ 1919 game with the Tigers was canceled when Dublin promoters insisted that Ty Cobb  (LEFT) play in the game.

Nimbocumulus clouds rolling in from the west didn’t look so good for the game that day. But, that didn’t stop the fans from plunking down their hard earned, nearly pure silver coins for a fine bench seat or staking out a good spot along the fence.

Promoters of the game in Dodge County set out to improve their fairgrounds by laying out a permanent athletic field inside of the existing horse racing track. The planners, in anticipation of the newest sensation of the day, designed the field to accommodate the landing of the highly popular biplanes, which entertained old and young alike.

To maximize the fan’s view of the game, home plate was situated directly in front of the grandstand, which was divided into sections to optimize ticket prices. In the days and weeks leading up to the game, ticket sales, mainly held in three local drug stores as well as locations in other cities, were exceptionally brisk. Advertisements boldly proclaimed, “There is going to be a real, jam up, honest to goodness ball game with real, sure enough major league players.”

The teams, with a squad of sportswriters and photographers tagging along, were scheduled to arrive in five Pullman rail cars at 1:45 p.m. on the afternoon of March 26, 1920. The game’s first pitch was set for 3:00 p.m. sharp. Onto the field they came, real major league ball players. Eight thousand hands clapped. Four thousand mouths cheered. It was time to play ball!

The Detroit Tigers were led by the legendary Ty Cobb. Surviving newspaper accounts of the day never revealed whether or not Cobb was in uniform that day, but he was with the team and ready to play. Bengal manager Hughie Jennings (LEFT)  - himself a future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame - was tired of being drubbed by the Beaneaters from Boston. So, instead of trying to make do with a make shift lineup, Jennings sent his line up card out to umpire Finneran with his best players pencilled in. The Tiger lineup featured Harry Heilmann playing at first base. Heilmann, a four-time American League Batting Champion, was consistently among the league leaders in offense and defense. Named to the Hall of Fame in 1952, “Slug” Heilmann is still regarded as one of the top players of the 20th Century.

Six years earlier in 1914, they called Braves’ manager George Stallings’ team, “The Miracle Braves,” for their miraculous climb from the National League cellar on July 18 to a World Championship with their four-game sweep of the seemingly invincible Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. Stallings  (LEFT) , a resident of Jones County, was the first to make Georgia the home of the Braves, when he brought them to Macon, Columbus, and sometimes even to his own home in Jones County for spring training.

Playing at shortstop for the Braves was Walter “Rabbitt” Maranville, (LEFT) a consistent fielder who retired as the all time positional leader at shortstop in put outs. Also present, but playing little for the Braves that year, was Hank Gowdy. Gowdy, who went on to play 21 seasons, played for the “Miracle Braves” and was forever known as the first major leaguer to enlist in the Army in World War I. Known more for his glove than his bat, Gowdy lost many bids for election to the Hall of Fame.

Manager Jennings sent George “Hooks” Dauss  (LEFT) to the mound in an effort to prevent a fourth straight loss to their traveling mates. Dauss, whose 221 wins for the Tigers in 15 seasons is a franchise record, garnered 21 of his victories in the previous season. Stallings countered with his old reliable, Dick Rudolph. Rudolph, the sole remaining pitcher from the 1914 squad, started the first game of the 1914 World Series and baffled Connie Mack’s hapless Athletics with his elusive, and then legal, spitball pitches.

The Braves quickly appeared that they were going to run away with yet another game, jumping out to a two-unearned run lead in the bottom of the first inning. Dauss settled down. Going back to his 1919 form, the curveball ace held the Braves scoreless going into the top of the 4th stanza.

Ralph “Pep” Young, exceedingly efficient at getting on base, led off the top of the 4th for the Tigers with a base on balls. Sammy Hale, who hailed from Glen Rose, Texas, flied out. Bobby Veach, (LEFT) the all time Major League leader in putouts for a left fielder and the first Tiger player to ever hit for the cycle, doubled. Veach never stopped running. When a “dead duck” throw went wild, Veach followed Young home to tie the game at 2-2.

Dauss pitched one final inning until he was relieved by Ernie Alten in the 5th. Alten, who shut out the Braves for the rest of game, had little luck in the regular season when posting a pathetic 9.00 ERA in his only year in the Majors.

In the top of the 6th inning, Young once again led off, this time with a solid single. Sammy Hale, who led the AL in sacrifice hits that season, sacrificed himself, driving Young to second base. Not wanting a repeat of another Veach (2-3) hit, Boston pitcher, “Handsome Hugh” McQuillan, intentionally walked the Tiger outfielder, who stands alone in baseball trivia as the only player ever to pinch hit for Babe Ruth.

Harry Heilmann, (LEFT)  who sported a lifetime batting average of .342 and who along with Ted Williams were the last two AL batters to post a .400 plus batting average, disappointingly flied out. With two runners on and two outs in the inning, Babe Ellison, whose best playing days were ahead of him as a great player in the Pacific Coast League, doubled, driving in both Hale and Veach and sending the Tigers to a 4-2 lead, a margin which they would hold until the end of the contest.

Alas, the game came to an end. The exhilarated crowd scattered into the countryside. The Braves’ streak was over. The teams met in Macon on Saturday and again in Atlanta on Sunday. Both teams finished next to dead last in their respective leagues, each more than 30 games out first place. Ty Cobb, in the twilight of iconic career, suffered a leg injury and missed 40 games that year. It would the last of George “The Miracle Man” Stallings’ 14 seasons at the helm of a major league team.

All of that was lost on those four thousand fortunate baseball fans, who for the most part, saw their first and only major league game on that March day when giants played on their field.


He was big and tall - as strong as man could come. He could knock down any tackler, blast a baseball way out of the park and stuff a basketball into the net. Joshua Crittenden Cody had already proved himself as a three-sport athlete. It was time to prove himself as a coach. But, before taking the reigns as head coach of Mercer University’s football team, Josh Cody put his baseball uniform on one more time to lead the Dublin Irishers to a successful, albeit short, season in the summer of 1920.

Joshua Crittenden Cody was born on June 11, 1892 in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee. At the age of twenty-two, Cody, a son of self employed house painter James Cody and his wife Elizabeth, enrolled in nearby Vanderbilt University and joined the football team. You see, although he was a grown man, Josh Cody was a very big man, as tall as 6'4" and weighing 220 pounds or more, characteristics that would have made him a giant in his day.

Cody, playing tackle on both sides of the line of scrimmage, made his mark early when in his second game, drop-kicked a 45-yard field goal against the always powerful Michigan Wolverines. Later that year, the towering tackle dropped back into the backfield and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass against Virginia.

The Vanderbilt Commodores reversed their fortunes in 1915, going 9-1. Cody, a big part of the team’s turnaround with his powerful blocking and quick tackling, earned his first selection to the All American team. Cody and the boys from Vandy (7-1-1) posted another fine season in 1916. Once again, Cody was named to the All American team.

The coming of World War I took Josh Cody away from football to serve his country as an infantry lieutenant. Lt. Cody took off his Army uniform and put his football uniform back on for one final season in 1919. The Commodores lost only a single game. Cody topped off his collegiate career with his third selection to the All American team. He was one of the first and the very few persons ever to be named first team All American three times.

Josh Cody wasn’t just a superlative football player. His letterman’s jacket was covered with a lucky thirteen letters in football, basketball, baseball and track in his four seasons at Vandy.

“When I think of Josh in his college days, I get a mental picture of this great big fellow playing catcher in the spring and between innings running out beyond the outfield to throw the shot or the discus in his baseball uniform. He was unbelievably skillful and nimble for a big man in basketball, and in football where he’s a legend, said sports writer Fred Russell about Cody.

Mercer University hired the multi-sport star to coach their athletic teams beginning with football in the autumn of 1920. But before beginning his duties in Macon, the owners of the Dublin Irishers semi-pro baseball team hired Cody, along with then current Vanderbilt baseballers catcher Mims Tyner and third baseman Woodruff, to play on the team.

Cody did quite of bit of managing from behind the plate, catching the Irishers’ first game and garnering two of the team’s four hits in a losing effort against Millen. After going an outstanding 16-7 in five weeks of baseball, the Irishers surprisingly disbanded due to lack of financial support and attendance.

After several lackluster seasons at Mercer, Coach Cody was easily lured back to Vanderbilt as head basketball and assistant football coach under his mentor and former coach, the legendary Dan McGugin, on the gridiron. During his tenure at Vandy, the gridiron Commodores were just mediocre at best. Cody’s hardwood five (20-4) won the Southern Conference championship.

Clemson University was the next stop on Cody’s climb to the top of his game. In four seasons with the Tigers, Cody’s footballers never lost more than three games in a season, beating South Carolina four straight times and in the process, making Coach Cody the only Clemson coach with more than two seasons who never lost to their hated intrastate rival.

Josh Cody desperately wanted to return to Vanderbilt as the head football coach. He did return in 1931, but when another coach was chosen to lead the team, Cody looked elsewhere. His Florida Gators suffered through four losing seasons. Once again Cody was on the move.

The Tennessean wound up at Temple University in Philadelphia as line coach under Ray Morrison, the former Vandy alumni who had taken the head job at Vandy away from him in 1934. The highlight of his basketball coaching career (1942-1952) came in 1944, when Temple made it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament. A football assistant, Cody became the university’s athletic director in 1952.

The unforseen resignation of the school’s football coach in 1955 gave Joshua Cody one final chance to coach football. His team lost every game.

Joshua Cody, known as “Big Man” to his friends and fans, was known far and wide as a champion eater. Fred Russell once said, “When he was at Clemson he had a contest with Herman Stegman, the coach at Georgia. Josh weighed about 260 then. He out stripped Stegman by 11 chickens. He wasn’t satisfied just to win. He just went on to a decisive victory.” Said Cody on the eating contest, “I got two chickens ahead of him early and just coasted.”

A teammate of Cody in 1919, Atlanta Constitution publisher Ralph McGill said about Cody, “He was a great big fellow and one of the most seriously dedicated fellows I’ve ever met. He was a farm boy and he didn’t have any polish but he was very honest and sincere. He didn’t have scholarship——we had none in those days——but he had a real job. He literally cleaned the gymnasium every day, cleaned up the locker rooms and the showers, and tended to the coal furnace after practice.”

Nearly two months after his death on June 17, 1969, Joshua Cody, along with Wilbur Henry, was selected as the tackles (both ways) on the All Time 1869-1918 Early Era All American NCAA Football team.

Cody was posthumously enshrined into the National College Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. He remains Vanderbilt’s only three-time (1915, 1916, 1919) All-American football player.

On a personal note, Coach Cody was my grandfather Howard Irving Scott’s football and basketball coach at Mercer University in the 1920-1 seasons. It will also be noted that a decade later, another quite legendary coach, Wally Butts of the University of Georgia, played for Dublin’s semi-pro team, only to see his season cut short when he injured his leg in the second game of the season.

But it was in those bright, warm, twenty-three summer days, the days of Joshua Cody, when Dublin’s baseball team was led by one of college football’s greatest linemen.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Do you remember the magic of 1962? Today it almost seems like a dream. Teenagers had a carefree life, except when they were thinking about a date on Saturday night, getting enough gas money to "Scratch the Patch", or how they were going to pass Mrs. Powell's English test. The conflict half way around the world was just beginning to erupt. The "Lads from Liverpool" were planning their British invasion. Uncle Jed and the Clampett family were moving to Beverly Hills. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a month away.

Outsiders said it couldn't be done. “There's too much factionalism in Dublin." There had been a bitter dispute over whether or not to build a county hospital. Laurens Countians had just gone through two heated election campaigns for Sheriff and Judge. Any successful building project needs a leader and many more loyal supporters. Don Lamb, a Dublin businessman, shook off all the doubts. The origin of the project went back to 1959 and 1960 when the Irish of Dublin High School won two consecutive state football championships. Battle Field, which had been around about twenty years, was totally inadequate for the needs of the team - and especially the fans. The bleachers had no aisles and once you got to your seat - if you could find one - you had to stay. People stood along the rails near the gym and on top of the cars parked on Moore Street to watch the Irish play. On some nights as many as six thousand fans would line the edges of the field.

On October 16, 1961, Don Lamb was named permanent chairman of the board of directors of the Dublin Playground Association. The founders of the association also included Dr. John Bell, Dr. Fred Coleman, Newton Morris, C.U. Smith, Ed Hall, W.E. Lovett, Gene Scarborough, Bush Perry, Fred Middlebrooks, Leonard Swida, Carl Mikall, Judge Harold E. Ward, L.D. Woods, Tom Bruce, McGrath Keen, Herschel Salter, Tommy Patterson, W.C. Brown, T.A. Curry, Jr., Carlus Gay, James F. Nelson, C.B. Chafin, Henry Tharpe, Spec Hall, J. Felton Pierce, Darrell Robinson, and Supt. S.R. Lawrence. Their mission was to locate a site and to construct a football stadium. Co-captains Tal Fuqua and Jimmy Hilburn, Coaches Minton Williams and Travis Davis, along with Touchdown Club president Alfred Eubanks were there with the other players, cheerleaders, and dozens of fans as the first grading began on Halloween of 1961.

The fund raising drive began three days later. The original goal was $50,000. The final cost would be a little over $87,000. Lamb and his board of directors came up with an ingenious plan to raise the money. Each donor would be not be asked to give cash, but to sign a promissory note, payable in thirty six installments. Real estate developer Thomas Curry remarked "It was the only time in my life that I borrowed money to give it away." Within a week, nearly sixteen thousand dollars had been pledged. The notes were discounted by the local banks to provide the construction funds.

The new stadium, which was still unnamed, was designed by Spitler and Yates to seat 8,200 people - with room for future expansion. There would be a modern field house, better restroom facilities, improved lighting, and better refreshment stands. The architects took advantage of the terrain and designed the stadium in a natural bowl shape which was opened on the north end of the field. The city and county lent some of their equipment to grade the site and to build an access road to the stadium and one from the stadium which later became Brookwood Drive. Sgt. Ben Snipes planted the grass. Grady Wright donated his services as the landscaper. Willie Wilkes helped with grading. Spec Hall groomed the field and planted the slopes. Troy Manning lent his irrigation equipment to pump water out of the creek. Ben Hall of Dublin Construction, R.T. Grier of Durden Electric, A. E. Kimball of Harpe Plumbing, and Ed Taylor of Builders Concrete gave up their profits on the job. Their were dozens of others who lent a hand.

An open house was held on held on August 24. Twenty six hundred people showed up to tour the field, meet the players, and listen to a concert by the Dixie Irish Band. There was still $24,000 which still needed to be raised. Lamb invited all comers to sign notes which could be paid back at five, ten, or fifteen dollars a month.

Opening night was set for September 21st. The Irish were 3 and 0. By opening night, a little less than sixteen thousand dollars was needed the goal. That Friday was officially designated as "Fill the Stadium Night." The opponents were the Crisp County Rebels. The chain grocery stores agreed to close a half hour early. In the pre-game ceremonies, Sharon Lamb, a cheerleader and daughter of Don and Mildred Lamb, christened the stadium as she led the unveiling of the shamrock at the southern end of the field. The Irish good luck symbol was originally fashioned out of neatly arranged Liriope plants. The name for the new stadium was obvious - The Shamrock Bowl. At least five thousand loyal fans passed through the gates. Crisp County, playing in a higher class, fought back to tie the game which ended with the score of 13 to 13. The Irish finished the season 7-2-1. Charles Faulk was an All-State tackle.

The Shamrock Bowl is now filled with thirty five years of memories. There was another state championship in 1963 and several great seasons after then. The halftime fans of the 60s were the treated to the music of one of the finest high school bands ever under the direction of John Hambrick and Jim Willoughby. Sylvester, our family beagle, still holds the record for a 120 yard touchdown run as he avoided capture by several winded chasers. In 1974, Jeffrey Sims set a state record for return yardage on two consecutive plays when he returned a kickoff 90 plus yards which followed a 90 yard plus interception return on the last play of the last game. In 1976, an obscure freshman was playing in his first game away from home. Not many knew the name of the back who lost four yards on two carries. The young man never looked back and probably never had another negative yard game. He of course was Heisman trophy winner and the all time great, Herschel Walker.

One Friday night this Fall, when the air is cool and the moon is full, grab your seat cushion and head on out to the Shamrock Bowl. Close your eyes, smell the popcorn and the grass slowly turning brown, and remember the magic of '62 when thousands of Dubliners came together and realized their dream of building one of the finest high school athletic fields in our state. Sources: History of the Shamrock Bowl, by Don Lamb (Dublin-Laurens Museum).