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The Hitting Streaks of Nashville’s Johnny Bates and Mobile’s Harry Chozen

Hitting StreakOn July 29, 1945, Mobile catcher Harry Chozen lays down an unsuccessful sacrifice bunt[1], ending his consecutive-game hitting streak at 49. It was the 11th inning of a 13-inning affair in Mobile, and Chozen finishes the game 0-for-5[2].

The unlikely batting hero caught for the Cincinnati Reds on September 21, 1937 against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Wayne LeMaster. After flying out to right, popping up to the first baseman in foul territory, and grounding out to first, Chozen hit a single in the bottom of the ninth inning for his only hit and only appearance in the major leagues. The Reds lost 10-1.

He played the next four years in the Eastern League for Albany and Williamsport, then in the Virginia League with Newport News before moving to Knoxville and Mobile in the Southern Association after World War II.

In surpassing Nashville’s Johnny Bates’ 45-game streak set in 1925, Chozen admitted that a broken bat was used for every hit of the streak.

“I broke my bat when I got my first hit of the streak on May 27 (in Memphis).” Chozen said. “I started to give it to my kid, but changed my mind and did a tack and tape job, and brother, it has paid dividends.”[4]

He even hit a home run with it, in his first time up on July 22. It was his 46th game of his stretch, breaking Bates’ record[5].

Some controversy surrounded Chozen’s feat. On July 6, after having hit safely in 33 consecutive games, he was issued a base on balls in his first time at the plate. Catching in the fourth inning, he was hit in the head by Chicks player Pete Thomassie on his follow-through swing. Unconscious, Chozen was removed from the game.

As there was no official plate appearance, Chozen’s streak continued for another 16 games before it ended.

When his streak was halted, he connected for a hit in his next eight games before being collared by New Orleans Pelicans pitcher Trader Horn on August 8. On the year his 103 hits came in 292 appearances for a .353 average. He played in 88 games that season, but was made a free agent at the end of the year according to the terms of his contract.

He signed with Memphis for 1946 before assuming the manager’s reins at Greenville in the Class C Cotton States League for 1947. One of his starting pitchers was Bob Kelley, who would pitch for Nashville in 1950-1951 and 1956. Chozen also played in 97 games that season.

He played and managed for the next four seasons at Miami Beach (Florida International League-C), Pine Bluff (Cotton States League-C) for two seasons, and Lake Charles (Gulf Coast League-B) before finishing his playing career in 1952 at Greenville once again.

Chozen passed away on September 16, 1994 in Houston, Texas at the age of 78.

Nashville’s Johnny Bates had set the previous league record by hitting in 45 consecutive games during the 1925 season. His personal run began with two hits against Atlanta on July 30, ending with two hits on the last day of his streak against Milt Steengraffe of Little Rock on September 16[6].

In 26 of those games he had only one hit to keep his pace intact. His 72 hits gave him a .370 average and he scored 44 runs during the streak. Bates ended the season with a .349 batting average[7].

Bates had played in the Southern Association previously with Mobile and Chattanooga, and for Rocky Mount (Virginia League-B). He spent three seasons at shortstop with Nashville before moving to Mobile at the end of the 1927 season.

Not much else is known about Bates, as his baseball record and personal history are incomplete. It is believed that he was born on August 21, 1882 at Steubenville, Ohio[8]; which, if true, would have him as a 43-year-old during his record-setting year.

But comparing his and Chozen’s records to Joe DiMaggio’s widely-known 56-game major league hitting streak places them in the top of the all-time list.

The Yankee Clipper’s personal best had been set in 1933 as a member of the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League (AAA) with 61 straight, and baseball’s record champion across both major and minor leagues was established by Joe Wilhoit in 1919 while playing for Wichita in the Class A Western League. The hitting streak records of all-time in the major and minor leagues[9]:

Joe Wilhoit                         Western League                             69           1919

Joe DiMaggio                    Pacific Coast League                      61           1933

Joe DiMaggio                    New York Yankees (AL)                56           1941

Román Mejías                   Big State League                              55            1954

Otto Pahlman                    Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League   50           1922

Jack Ness                            Pacific Coast League                       49           1915

Harry Chozen                     Southern League                             49           1945

Johnny Bates                     Southern League                              46           1925

Willie Keeler                      Baltimore Orioles (NL)                   45           1896-97*

Jamie McOwen                 California League                              45           2009

Pete Rose                           Cincinnati Reds (NL)                        44           1978

*Keeler had a hit on the last day of the 1896 season, then hit safely in the first 44 games of the 1897 season

Two special players, each with average careers, had one very special season of their lives, and their feats were never matched in the Southern Association.

© 2015 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1]Wechsler, Bob (2008). Day by Day in Jewish History. Jersey City, New Jersey: KATV Publishing House.

[2] Anniston Star, July 30, 1945.

[3] Wilkes-Barre Record, July 27, 1945.

[4] Baseball Records, Southern Association from 1901-1945 Inclusive.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Russell, Fred; George Leonard (1950). Vol Feats: Records, History and Tales of the Nashville Club in the Southern Association 1901-1950. Nashville, Tennessee: Nashville Banner.

[7] SABR Baseball Biography Project, incomplete

Major and minor league statistical information retrieved from http://www.baseball-reference.com. Major league game details retrieved from http://www.retrosheet.org.

 

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This Week in Nashville Baseball History: January 4 – January 10

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January 4, 1899 – John Sneed’s death is announced in Jackson, Tennessee. A member of Nashville’s first professional baseball club, the Americans of the newly-formed Southern League, he was a utility player who also pitched. Sneed also played for the Memphis Grays, Memphis Browns, and New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern League. He was born in Shelby County near Memphis in 1861

January 5, 1908 – Bill Bernhard(t) is named as manager of the Nashville Baseball Club. “Strawberry Bill” had pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians beginning in 1899, retiring at the end of the 1907 season with a major league record of 116 -81. Bernhard will manage Nashville for three seasons while continuing to pitch. Leaving the Vols after the 1910 season, he would move to Memphis and manage there from 1911 to 1913 and return to active pitching in Salt Lake City in 1914 and Chattanooga in 1915. After being out of baseball for two years he will return to Salt Lake City as manager in 1916, retiring from pro ball in 1917

January 6, 1897 – Today is the birthday of Byron “By” Speece. The right-handed submariner was 85-60 for Nashville from 1932-1938. He had previously pitched for Washington and Cleveland in the American League in 1924-26 and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1930. After his stint with the Vols Speece moved to the Pacific Coast League, pitching for Portland and Seattle from 1940-1946

January 7, 1882 – Heinie Berger, pitcher for Nashville in 1914 (20-17) and 1915 (12-7), is born in LaSalle, Illinois. After his 1915 season with the Vols, Berger retired from baseball. The 5’9” right hander had previously pitched for Cleveland in the American League from 1907-1910 where Berger had a cumulative major league record of 32-29 with a 2.60 ERA. On September 16, 1907 Berger tossed a one-hitter against the New York Highlanders

January 8, 1914 – Judge A. B. Neil awards a temporary injunction to Nashville manager Bill Schwartz that prevents club president W. G. Hirsig from voting certain sharts of stock at the Nashville Baseball Club stockholders meeting called for January 13.  The 26 shares in question are said to be in the name of W. B. Lee, a prominent Nashville specialist, and had been voted by Hirsig in previous meetings.  Schwartz claims to hold Dr. Lee’s written proxy to vote the shares at the meeting

January 9, 1938 – Larry Gilbert, who will be leaving tomorrow with his wife and youngest son Tookie for Nashville to take over his new duties as manager of the Vols, is given a going-away party at his home in New Orleans.  Over 100 family member and friends visited and presented the Gilberts with a variety of gifts

January 10, 1947 – Tom Wilson, owner of the Baltimore Elite Giants formerly located in Nashville, is ousted as president of the Negro National League. Wilson had held the post since 1938

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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It Happened On This Day in Nashville Baseball: December 22 – December 28

Junie McBride

Junie McBride

December 22, 1916 – Today is the birthday of J. F. “Junie” McBride, player, coach, and manager in Nashville’s local amateur leagues for over 50 years. President of the Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association from 1966 through 1968, Junie was given the group’s prestigious “Mr. Baseball” award in 1992. The upper floor of the clubhouse at Nashville’s Old Timers Complex at Shelby Park is named the “Junie McBride Hall of Fame Room” in his honor.

December 23, 1953 – Nashville’s own Jim “Junior” Gilliam, second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, wins the National League Rookie of the Year, awarded by The Sporting News.

December 24, 1913 – Today is the birthday of George Jeffcoat, Nashville pitcher from 1939 though 1942 and brother to former Vols player Hal Jeffcoat. With an overall record of 53-38 for Nashville, his best season for the Vols was in 1940 when he was 14-6 with a 3.78 ERA and was second in the league with 121 strikeouts. His greatest accomplishment for Nashville came on September 11, 1940 in a Southern Association playoff game as Jeffcoat struck out seven consecutive Chattanooga batters on his way to tallying a league record eighteen strikeouts

December 25, 1908 – Former major leaguer Ben Chapman is born in Nashville. In his 15-year career he played for the Yankees, Senators, Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, Browns, and Phillies and played every position except first base and catcher. His career major league batting average was .302. A four-time All Star, Chapman led the American League in stolen bases for three consecutive seasons (1931, 1932, and 1933) and again with 35 in 1935 while splitting time with the Senators and the Red Sox. He led the America League in triples with 13 in 1934 while with the Yankees. Chapman became player-manager of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1945 and was known for opposing the presence of Jackie Robinson in the majors due to his race

December 26, 1984 – Johnny Gill passes away in his home town of Nashville. His major league career was short-lived, playing in only 118 games with the Indians, Senators, and Cubs, but his minor league career lasted for 23 years primarily as an outfielder. Known to his teammates as “Patcheye”, Gill’s best seasons were spent with Knoxville, Chattanooga, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Portland. His last professional season was in 1947 when at the age of 42 he played and managed for Fulton, Kentucky and Clarksville, Tennessee in the KITTY League. Born in Nashville on March 27, 1905, upon his death Gill was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Nashville

December 27, 1920 – Robert “Dutch” McCall is born in Columbia, Tennessee. In his first three seasons in organized ball he was mostly an outfielder, but after signing with the Nashville Vols, manager Larry Gilbert converted McCall to a pitcher. In 1942 and 1943 with Nashville, his combined pitching record was 15-11. But after a 2-year stint in military service, his 1946 season was exceptional. On April 30th, he tied the Southern Association record for strikeouts in a game with 17 and for the season he led the league in strikeouts with 179 as he finished 12-9. McCall earned a call-up to the Chicago Cubs for the 1948 season where he went 4-13 in his only year in the majors, retiring in 1954

December 28, 1906 – Local favorite Tommy Bridges, whose major league career spanned 16 seasons all with the Detroit Tigers, is born in Gordonsville, Tennessee

(c) 2014 Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Nashville Old Timers Banquet to Feature Atlanta Braves’ Dale Murphy

Former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy will be the featured speaker at the 77th annual Old Timers banquet, scheduled for Thursday, January 22, 2015 at the Nashville Airport Marriott.

With 18 seasons in the Major Leagues including 15 with the Braves, Murphy also suited up for the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies. A two-time National League Most Valuable Player in 1982 and 1983, he was a seven-time all-star while winning five Rawlings Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger Awards.

Murphy was the 1988 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually for outstanding service in the community. The Portland, Oregon native finished his career with 2,111 hits and 398 home runs.

102164Chris Mercado, head coach of the South Nashville team that was one of eight teams to represent the U.S. during the 2014 Little League World Series, will be honored as the Old Timers’ 2015 “Mr. Baseball” selection; long-time coach at Vol State and current South Carolina-Aiken head coach Kenny Thomas will be inducted into the Nashville Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.

Nashville and Middle Tennessee umpire Ken Norfleet will be inducted into the Umpire Hall of Fame and local amateur MVPs and World Series Champions will be honored.

2015 Scholarship Award recipients will also be recognized. Over $300,000 has been awarded to worthy high school senior baseball players during the past 16 years by the organization.

Banquet tickets are $60 each and may be purchased from any Old Timers board member, or Hit after Hit, the Nashville Sounds at Greer Stadium, and Nashville Sporting Goods. The doors open at 5:30 PM and the banquet begins at 6:30 PM.

Call Old Timers president Bart Leathers (586-0352), Farrell Owens (269-7348), Rip Ryman (319-8459) or visit http://www.otbaseball.com for more information.

Formed in 1938 by a group of local baseball enthusiasts, the Old Timers organization is one of the oldest such organizations in the United States, celebrating its 77th year of existence in 2015.

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The Pride of Nashville: R.A.Dickey

R.A.

A product of Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy and the University of Tennessee, major league pitcher R. A. Dickey was the banquet speaker at the 69th annual Old Timers banquet in 2007 where he related his experiences on the field and called attention to his life’s faith journey.

“For me, it’s not about an All-America award or other accolades, it’s about my experiences,” said Dickey.  “Sometimes you are not as bad as you feel nor are you as good as you might think you are.  It is more important to have a purpose, be it in faith or in baseball, but in all things to have joy in it.

“I try to glean wisdom from a game and apply it to my life.”

R. A. was the 18th player taken in the 1996 draft, the first-round pick of the Texas Rangers, and was prepared to sign a contract with the team.  The signing was to have taken place before a Rangers home game in Arlington, Texas, where Dickey was set to throw out the first ball.

Just before finalizing the contract, his agent informed him that Rangers general manager Doug Melvin was backing off of the $900,000 signing bonus that had been agreed to.

During a routine physical examination it had been discovered that a tendon was missing in his throwing arm, and Melvin was not sure that he wanted to sign Dickey at all.  After being named Freshman of the Year by Baseball Digest during his first full season at the University of Tennessee and collecting a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the news regarding his arm caught him off-guard.

Dickey’s choices were to return to the Knoxville and rejoin the baseball team or continue to pursue a professional career, but on the eve of stepping back on the UT campus he was told that the Rangers were still interested.  However, the signing bonus would be reduced to $75,000. Dickey signed with the Rangers on September 12 and his professional career began.

“One cannot predict what is going to happen.  Often we may need to make adjustments,” said Dickey.

Little did he know how many turns his career would take.

The 6’2″, 215-lb. right-hander spent time in the minor leagues with Oklahoma, Frisco, Charlotte, and Tulsa.  For 2007 he signed a AAA contract with the Milwaukee, where ironically Doug Melvin was the general manager. Dickey joined the Brewers affiliate Nashville Sounds and finished 13-6.

Having recently turned to mastering the knuckleball, Dickey told the banquet attendees, “Be ready to re-invent yourself.”

His knuckleball – combined with his persistence – worked. With the Seattle Mariners for 2008 and Minnesota Twins in 2009, R. A. signed with the New York Mets in 2010 and threw a one-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies on August 13, 2010. His ERA for the season was 2.84. Agreeing to a two-year contract with the Mets beginning in 2011, his record 8-13 but his ERA was a respectable 3.28.

R. A. had a dream season in 2012, setting a New York Mets record for consecutive scoreless innings (44 1/3), led the National League in starts (33), innings pitched (233 2/3), and strikeouts (230). Named to the National League All Star team, he finished the year with a 2.73 ERA.

Named winner of the prestigious 2012 National League Cy Young Award, he became the first knuckleballer in the history of Major League Baseball to capture the award.

Dickey was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2013 season where he finished 14-13 and won the pitcher’s American League Gold Glove Award.

R. A. will be speaking at Lipscomb University’s “Forehand & Friends” event Wednesday, January 8th at 11:30 in the Hall of Fame Room of Allen Arena.  Cost is $10 including lunch.  RSVP via email paul.nance@lipscomb.edu.

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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George Scharein

November 21, 1914 is the birthday of George Scharein, infielder for Nashville during 1935 and 1936. His brother Art Scharein spent three seasons in the majors with the St. Louis Browns and 13 seasons in the minor leagues.

Playing for Beckley in the Middle Atlantic League at the beginning of 1935 where he was hitting only .217, the Vols recalled him in July. GeoScharein Nashville owned Scharein’s contract and had shipped him around from Durham, North Carolina (Piedmont League), Pine Bluff (East Dixie League) and Beckley. In 1933 Nashville manager Charlie Dressen had said that Scharein reminded him of major leaguer Ossie Bluege, an All Star infielder who spent years with the Washington Senators.

A slick shortstop, he was an instructor at Dressen’s baseball school in Decatur, Illinois in October (“Room and board $8 per week, Bats and Baseballs provided free”). Scharein was born in Decatur.

By July of 1936, Scharein’s batting average had improved to .309, and when the Vols Bill Rodda was moved to second base in 1936 after two seasons at shortstop, Scharein took his place.

Although he committed 26 errors, Scharein hit for a .288 average. On September 7th the New York Giants purchased Scharein and placed him on the 40-man roster.  He was to report to the major league club in the spring, but on December 8th Scharein was traded by the Giants with cash to the Philadelphia Phillies for Lou Chiozza.

He became the Phillies shortstop, a position he held for two years. Scharein remained with the Phillies until May 3, 1940 when he was sent to the New York Yankees to complete an earlier deal made in March.  Schareirn became the proverbial “player to be named later” in a deal with the Yankees for Ham Schulte.

The former Nashville Vols player never played for the Yankees, as he was sent to the New York affiliate Newark in the International League for two seasons, then to Kansas City during 1942 and 1943.  Scharein joined the military and served with the Army’s 65th Infantry Division, then made a comeback in Kansas City in 1946 when he hit .303 but his next five years showed a decline in games played and average each season. He retired after the 1950 season.

Scharein passed away on December 23, 1981 at the age of 67.

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