Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This post is dedicated to Kirk Comer of Shenandoah, Virginia. He took an interest in one of my earlier posts and helped me learn a heckuva lot more about the minor leagues and my great-uncle Woody.
This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt features two bat-and-ball games: cricket and baseball. Do cricket fans rise to their feet to sing a great song like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”? At ballparks across America, everyone knows the words, and no words get more emphasis than “One – Two – Three strikes, you’re out, at the ol’ ball game!”
That song was fifteen years old when my great-uncle Arthur Henry “Woody” Woodring played for the minors, so maybe he actually had the pleasure of being serenaded by baseball fans during his six-year run with the Martinsburg (West Virginia) Blue Sox.
|Shenandoah shops team 1927|
Woody is on the far right, back row
scanned from Shenandoah: A History of Our Team and Its People
|Photo courtesy of Kirk Comer, Shenandoah, VA|
The infield of the old stadium is obvious,
but you might have to work harder to see the fence and grandstand.
Woody was playing on the shops team even while he began his professional baseball career as a catcher in 1924, evidently playing both at the same time.
The Blue Sox were part of the Blue Ridge League. This league of six level D (Rookie) teams from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland formed in 1915, disbanded during World War I because of lack of players, but revived itself in 1920.
In those days, the team with the best record for the season became the league champions. It was Woody’s first year on the team but the Martinsburg Blue Sox’s third straight championship title.
|1924 Martinsburg Blue Sox|
Woody is on the front row, far right
Photo courtesy of blueridgeleague.org
The play-off system didn’t start until 1928, the same year that some major league teams started affiliating with the minor teams. Woody’s team was affiliated with what was then the Philadelphia Athletics. Other teams were affiliated with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Senators.
The story that we had a professional ballplayer in the family never seemed REAL until I saw Woody’s stats for the first time. His weakest year was 1926 when he played only 12 games in the season. It appears that he fell to the number 3 spot of a 4-man squad of catchers, but still he recorded the best fielding percentage of the group. However, I don’t know the full story. It’s possible he was injured, or maybe the organization was grooming the latest phenom.
|Martinsburg Blue Sox 1925|
Woody is in the middle, front row, right behind the young boy
Photo courtesy of blueridgeleague.org
Woody’s best season was definitely his last, 1929. He played in 95 of at least 112 games (based on the highest number of games played by others on his team). In his 327 times at bat, he hit 103 singles, 19 doubles, 5 triples, and 4 homeruns, earning his highest Batting Average of .315%. His Slugging Percentage of .440% put him as the fifth best hitter on his team.
Reading baseball statistics can be mind-numbing, but a simplified list of career totals might be easy to handle. They are neither impressive nor unimpressive since there is nothing to compare them to, but here they are:
Career BATTING stats (total for all 6 years)
1519 plate appearances
1489 at bats
5 stolen bases
2 hit by pitch
8 sacrifice bunts
Career FIELDING stats (total for 1924-1927) (not sure why other years are not available)
273 games as catcher
1465 Defensive Chances (put outs + assists + errors)
1232 put outs
.980% fielding percentage
The Blue Ridge League died a slow death in 1930 when some teams went bankrupt after the stock market crashed. Woody’s team was one of them that didn’t survive into the 1930 season, and his career died with it. Whether Woody just wasn’t good enough to be called up to The Show or whether his young bride, my great-aunt Velma, told him to come home and stay home will probably never be known.
It's too bad Woody died so young (age 47 in 1951). It would have been fun to go with him to a game and share some peanuts and cracker jack. I bet he could tell some stories.
Join the team over at Sepia Saturday where there is surely something to cheer about.
“Blue Ridge League.” Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. 2000-2011. Web. 22 July 2012.
“Blue Ridge League.” Wikipedia. Web. 22 July 2012.
“Woody Woodring.” Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. 2000-2011. Web. 22 July 2012.
Zeigler, Mark C. Blue Ridge League. Boys of the Blue Ridge, 2012. Web. 22 July 2012.