Tag Archives: Georgia-Florida League

“Easy” in Nashville in 1930: Vols First Baseman Jim Poole

Jim Poole_FBJames (Jim) Ralph Poole earned his first appearance in the big leagues after four seasons with Portland of the Pacific Coast League where he had slugged 107 home runs. In two of those years, 1923 and 1924, Poole had 65 home runs (he led the PCL with 38 in 1923), batted .346, and drove in 265 runs[1], so his reputation as a slugger was strong.

In his major league debut at the age of 29 in Philadelphia’s season opener at Shibe Park on April 14, 1925 against the Boston Red Sox, he popped out to third in his first at-bat in the second inning, but after a fifth-inning walk finished with a homer and two singles as the A’s won 9-8 in 10 innings.

Poole played first base and outfield for the Athletics in 1925, 1926, and 1927, but his minor league career spanned 26 years. “Easy” had a minor league average of .316 but hit .364 on 215 hits and won the home run title with 50 as a first baseman with the Nashville Vols in 1930.

On June 14 of that season Poole hit three home runs, a double, and a single against Mobile to set a new league record with 15 total bases. Teammate Jay Partridge hit 40 round trippers during 1930, and together they set a Southern Association for most home runs by two players on a club with 90. The record would stand until September 6, 1948 when Nashville’s Charlie Gilbert (49) and Chuck Workman (41) tied it (by seasons end the 1948 duo would end up with 94 between them for the new league record).

At Reading of the International League in 1931 Poole batted .306, had a .499 slugging percentage, hit 24 home runs (third in the league), scored 100 runs and drove in 126. The team finished in last place.[2]

Jim never found the same power again. In 1932 he bounced between three teams in the International League before finishing the season at Harrisburg in the New York-Pennsylvania League. The next season he was at Class B Winston-Salem in the Piedmont League and he never moved out of D League ball for the rest of his career.

He continued playing and managing through the 1961 season, although he retired as a player in 1947. His batboy for the Moultrie Packers in the Georgia-Florida (Class D) League in 1947 said Poole was the most superstitious person he ever knew.

“In addition to managing, he was the third-base coach. Once, early in the season he picked up a ballpark peanut on his way from the dugout to the third base coach’s box. He put it in his rear pocket. We won three or four games in a row, but when we lost one, he threw away the peanut. He said that he had used up all the luck.”[3]

In 16 seasons as a manager, mostly with Class D teams, he took the reins in the North Carolina, Bi-State, Appalachian, George-Florida, Western Carolina, and Mountain States League. In 1961 as Western Carolina League teams in Forest City, Hickory, and Gastonia withdrew, Poole became general manager and field manager of the Belmont club. It was a dire season that saw only a little over 10,000 fans attend 50 home games. Poole, who knew many people in baseball, asked his friends within the San Francisco Giants to supply player development funds and even players to the struggling franchise. Poole eventually resigned before the end of the season and the team finished with a 39-61 won-lost record.[4] It was Poole’s last season in Organized Baseball.

Born in Taylorsville, North Carolina, on May 12, 1895, Poole passed away of a heart attack at the age of 79 in Hickory, North Carolina, on January 2, 1975. He was buried at Linney’s Grove Baptist Cemetery in Hiddenite, Alexander County.

Sources

Ancestry.com

Baseball-Reference.com

Retrosheet.org

Notes

[1] Neyer, Rob. Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else

[2] Selko, Jamie. Minor League All-Star Teams, 1922-1962: Rosters, Statistics and Commentary

[3] Ellington, Eugene E. “Duke”. What’s a Country Boy Like Me Doing in a Place Like This?

[4] Buhite, Russell D. The Continental League: A Personal History

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Two Months in Nashville: Gene Davis

Born in 1934, Gene Davis played amateur baseball for the Jacksonville, Florida Post 9 Generals, one of the premier American Legion programs in the United States.  A third baseman, it was there he garnered attention from scouts for his playing abilities and in 1953 was offered a professional contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Upon signing his first contract at the age of 19, Davis was assigned by the parent club to play for Albany, the Cardinals’ Class D entry in the Georgia-Florida League.  It was the beginning of Gene’s minor league career that would last for nine seasons.

In his first professional game with Albany, Davis was hitless at the plate.  Undaunted, he proved his worth by hitting safely in his next 20 games until his streak was halted in a game against Waycross.  On May 19 Davis collected four hits as his team set a single-game Georgia-Florida League record for runs (21) and hits (23).

The 6’ 1”, 185 lb. Davis had minor league stops in Hamilton (PONY), Lynchburg (Piedmont), Peoria (I-I-I), Sioux City (Western), and Winston-Salem (Carolina), all in the Cardinals’ organization.  His best season was in 1954 at Hamilton (Ontario, Canada), where he built a .345 batting average on 173 hits, 62 extra-base hits with 12 home runs, and 270 total bases.

While playing with Hamilton on May 5th against Bradford, Davis’ first inning pop-up bunt was caught by pitcher Dave Zebley who tossed the ball to second base to double up the runner.  The subsequent throw to first caught another runner for the third out and secured the PONY League’s first triple play of the 1953 season.

On May 11, 1954, Gene’s lone hit was enough to break up a no-hit bid by Corning pitcher Bobby Adubato.

With Peoria in 1956, teammates Bob Bauer and Gene Davis both hit home runs in the seventh inning of game on July 15 to defeat Cedar Rapids.  Together again the next season with Winston-Salem, Davis and Bauer duplicated their feat by each socking a home run on June 21, 1957 against the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms.

After signing with Washington (AL) after the 1957 season, Davis was assigned to Charlotte (South Atlantic), playing there for two full seasons while splitting 1960 between Charlotte and Wilson (Carolina).

Davis’ debut on South Atlantic League soil got off to a terrific start.  On April 13, 1959 in Charleston, Davis had four hits in five plate appearances with three runs batted in to pace Charlotte to a 12-6 win in front of 2,727 chilly fans on Opening Night.  A few days later on April 17, right fielder Gene slammed two home runs to provide the margin of victory in Charlotte’s 10-9 win over Jacksonville.

A freak single by Davis on May 28 spoiled Asheville pitcher Jack Taylor’s attempt at a no-hitter.  His rap to the mound in the fifth inning struck the pitching rubber and shot into the air.  Before third baseman Don Le John could grab the ball and throw to first base, Davis had safely crossed the bag.  It was the only hit Taylor gave up in winning over Charlotte 4-0.

Davis was named to the 1959 All Star team which faced the Gastonia Pirates in the South Atlantic League All Star Game at Charlotte on July 21.  The 10-inning affair, won by the SALLY All Stars 8-7 with an attendance of 3,593 fans, had originally been scheduled for July 20 but was delayed until the next evening due to rain.

In 1961, the Senators moved to Minneapolis and became the Minnesota Twins, signing a minor league agreement with Nashville of the Southern Association as the Twins’ Class AA affiliate.  Gene joined the Vols as an outfielder and to play third base, his original position when signed by the Cardinals.

On Opening Day in Nashville, April 8th, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch with 5,224 Sulphur Dell fans in attendance.  Senators Estes Kefauver and Albert Gore also attended the game.

Davis did not start, but batted as a pinch hitter for relief pitcher Leverette Spencer in the sixth inning, and reached first base on an error but was promptly lifted for pinch-runner Bill Felker.  Nashville lost the game, 5-3.

In the first game of a double header against Macon at Sulphur Dell on May 7, Macon southpaw Jim Bailey nearly tossed a no-hitter but Nashville ended up winning 2-0 despite Bailey’s gem.  A small crowd of 1,277 watched as Bailey held the Vols hitless for 8 and two-thirds innings before Nashville’s clean-up hitter Joe Christian slapped a curveball just beyond the reach of Macon second baseman George Holder to spoil the no-hit bid.

Still hopeful for a Macon win, Bailey’s efforts were further shattered when Gene poked a waist-high curve for a 280-foot home run over Nashville’s famous right-field fence to seal the 2-0 win for the home team.  Lefty Gene Host got the win by allowing only four hits against the Peaches.

SouAssnBallAlthough Davis had been a consistent mid-teens home run hitter, his statistics had never measured up to his year in Hamilton and during his later seasons his batting average remained close to his minor league career average of .283.

The May 31, 1961 issue of The Sporting News listed under the heading “Deals of the Week” that Gene Davis had been released by Nashville, along with pitchers Gene Host and Al Johnston.

During his two-month stint with the Vols, Davis appeared in 25 games, had 13 hits (including four doubles and two home runs) and a .228 batting average before being released.  At age 27, it was his last professional season.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Baseball-Reference.com.

The Sporting News, May 20, 1953, 35.

The Sporting News, May 27, 1953, 36.

The Sporting News, May 19, 1954, 36. 

The Sporting News, September 1, 1954, 11.

The Sporting News, July 25, 1956, 40.

The Sporting News, May 1, 1957, 39.

The Sporting News, April 22, 1959, 30.

The Sporting News, April 29, 1959, 37.

The Sporting News, June 10, 1959, 51.

The Sporting News, July 22, 1959, 40.

The Sporting News, April 19, 1961, 31.

The Sporting News, May 17, 1961, 31.

The Sporting News, May 31, 1961, 37.

Wright, Marshall.  The Southern Association in Baseball 1885-1961.  Jefferson, North Carolina, and London:  McFarland & Company, 2002

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