Friday, July 27, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack

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!”
Woody 1926
at the original stadium, Shenandoah, VA

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
Woody worked on the electrical force of the Norfolk & Western Railroad.  How fortunate for him that the N&W sponsored baseball teams up and down the line.  

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

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

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)
438 games
1519 plate appearances
1489 at bats
24 runs
409 hits
71 doubles
9 triples
8 homeruns
5 stolen bases
20 walks
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
203 assists
30 errors
.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.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. This is interesting...I've enjoyed some great minor league games. And I used to LOVE Cracker Jacks (especially when the prizes were good).

    1. I loved cracker jacks too and always looked forward to the prize.

  2. Hi Wendy, this is so exciting ... how cool is it that you have a famous ball player in your family. I loved seeing the pictures and reading about Uncle Woody. Thanks!

    Kathy M.

    1. Well, hardly "famous," but we'll take it.

  3. Baseball is another sport about which I know nothing, so I’m really enjoying getting all these stories. It’s really interesting that you have all the information on Woody, but so sad that he died so young. That first shot is a real ‘action’ stance.

    1. I like the action stance too. Before I found the website with his statistics, that photo is what told me Woody was a catcher (the glove).

  4. Another great example of that rich mixture of old photographs, family memories and fascinating facts that makes Sepia Saturday such a joy to participate in.

    1. I love Sepia Saturday. You know you're going to get a little present wherever you go.

  5. "Take me out to the ball game..." Our Nana taught us that song when we were little. She was a great Mets fan. She never wanted a TV till my Mom said she'd be able to watch the Mets play. ha!
    Hurray for Woody & his baseball skills.

    1. Yay for Nana instilling the baseball fever into the grandkids.

  6. I like the last photo, everyone looks so relaxed and enjoying the moment. How wonderful to have a sportsman in the family. Cricket and baseball share a love of statistics.

    1. I like that photo too. I'd like to know about that kid. Was he the batboy? Was he the manager's son?

  7. Baseball stats are even more confusing than cricket averages. I understand the principles of baseball but haven't seen enough to really appreciate it all. We don't get songs at cricket matches - unfortunately just some idiotic chanting.

    1. Someday I'll explain baseball if you and Marilyn will explain cricket.

  8. Great story and pictures! I've gone back to give those big round gloves another look.... I guess that's what the boy is holding - or has sitting in front of him. (kathy at

  9. We are all praising SS this week-end. I am counting on Alan and all the folks in the know to help clear up all our contributions. This is a perfect example of the reason for the SS. Great job.

  10. How lucky to have these! I am impressed, this is truly a theme based joyfully sporty post!

  11. I try quite frequently but I never quite understand baseball. We don't have songs at cricket matches but there are cricketing songs, not least "Cricket, Lovely Cricket", a calypso written when the West Indies beat England.

    1. I'll have to check YouTube to see if there is a little rendition of "Cricket, Lovely Cricket."

  12. Splendid collection and good for you for finding out so many details. This was quite entertaining.

  13. Now that's a story and a half to go with your family photos - excellent job.

    1. Thank-you very much. I'm glad to have found what I did just to augment what little I had been told about Woody's life.

  14. Wonder what happened that year he only played 12 games.

  15. A terrific post. I love the name "Blue Sox", so appropriate for the Virginia highlands. Though I watch some MLB, minor league is much more entertaining. The last time I went to an Asheville Tourists game, I sat beside an old guy who knew ALL the player's and game stats. It's an enthusiasm that is sadly disappearing because the players on single A and double AA teams are no longer members of the community like they once were in your Uncle Woody's era.