Friday, May 26, 2017

Sepia Saturday: A Flea in the Bed

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo of a baseball player is the perfect prompt for a story about my granduncle Woody Woodring. Unfortunately for me, I already wrote that story. However, when I told Woody’s story in 2012, I thought his last season as a professional baseball player was in 1929. I have since discovered that is not so. While his career lasted only another 5 years, he did enough to earn him his very own baseball card.
Woody Woodring 1925 baseball card Portland Beavers
Arthur "Woody" Woodring
1925 Portland Beavers

Reading “Portland” on the card confused me at first because my research had revealed only his time with the Martinsburg Blue Sox, part of the Blue Ridge League, and with the team representing the Shops of the Norfolk & Western Railroad. A clip in the Portland Oregonian dated January 1925 revealed there was much more to Woody’s story, attesting to his strength as a catcher.
News article Portland Oregonian January 1925
from the Portland Oregonian January 1925
A month later, the story was quite different. The sports reporter for the Portland Oregonian praised Woody for his arm. In his last year with the Blue Sox, Woody’s fielding percentage was .994 in 72 games, the best fielding record ever by a catcher in the Blue Ridge league. He was credited with 46 assists in 359 chances and was charged with only 2 errors. Impressive.

News article Portland Oregonian February 15, 1925
from Portland Oregonian, Feb 15, 1925
But then the reporter went on to caution, “There’s always a flea in the bed somewhere.” 

That “flea” was Woody’s batting average. He predicted Woody would never be the starting catcher, no matter how good he was at it, if he couldn’t hit, run, score.

Woody played in the minor leagues about the time many of the teams started aligning with the big boys. The Portland Beavers were part of the Philadelphia Athletics organization. Despite boasting a roster of players who later achieved Hall of Fame status, the Beavers repeatedly finished in the bottom half of the league. How long Woody remained with the team is not known. However, a news article from 1930 indicates that at some point he had returned home to Martinsburg, West Virginia and was back with the Blue Sox.
News article about Woody Woodring being traded Apr 11, 1930
from Morning Herald Hagerstown, MD Apr 11, 1930

For some reason he was released but quickly grabbed up by the Cumberland Colts in Maryland. After that, there is another gap in Woody’s career. As before, he made his way back to Martinsburg. In 1934, a news article reported he decided to resign as manager of the Blue Sox because the time commitment interfered with his business interests.

Woody's resignation as manager of Blue Sox 1934
from Evening Sun Hanover, PA May 31, 1934

Those “business interests” were not likely any fancy investments or wheeling and dealing. On the contrary, it is more likely he needed a “real job” that paid better than minor league baseball. In 1932, he was a driver for Standard Oil. 

Then at least before 1939 he became a salesman for Corkran Hill & Company, a distributor of meat, cheese, and margarine. What a bonus to get a company car! 

Corkran Hill & Co car
Woody's car
Corkran Hill & Co.

That was his career until the day he died at the ripe ol’ age of 47 (!) in January 1951.

Arthur Woody Woodring and Velma Davis Woodring 1949 Martinsburg, WV
Woody and my grandaunt Velma 1949

Don’t get caught looking. Run the bases to Sepia Saturday.

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. I am currently reading a biography of Moe Berg, "The Catcher Was a Spy." Berg was a 1923 Princeton graduate who played 15 years in the major leagues as a third-string catcher. Despite getting a law degree, he preferred baseball as a career. He worked as a spy in WWII.

  2. I know nothing about baseball, but your title was enticing and I enjoyed reading about Woody. Spot on match for this week's prompt.

  3. Flea in the bed, indeed! Woody did all right for himself, in spite of it all! Sorry he never made it up to the Bigs, but the minors are pretty impressive, too!

  4. It sounds like Woody got to do what he obviously must have loved doing, for most of his short life. Not so many can say that. A shame he died so young, though.

  5. It sounds like Woody got to do what he obviously must have loved doing, for most of his short life. Not so many can say that. A shame he died so young, though.

  6. As many of us know, having been athletic as young people, when we stop doing whatever sport we did, the pounds just start to accumulate. Your Woody seemed to have that happen to him, and I'm blaming my width on the same thing, though I really never was an athlete. He sure was, with a lot to be proud of.

  7. You always come up with the most intriguing titles.

    A company car in the 1930's-1940's was probably pretty rare. Good for him!

  8. Very interesting and perfect for the prompt, but sad that poor Woody died so young after his short baseball career.

  9. A super-duper story! I wish musicians' careers came with cards and detailed statistics like baseball players. But juts Like show biz, the baseball business in the early decades was cutthroat and fiercely competitive. Always had to be on top your game.

  10. Another interesting character in your family!

  11. A very entertaining post. And it reminded me of a photo I have that was taken from the stands at the Portland baseball park around 1916. I've emailed you a copy.