Monday, October 12, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Baseball's New Big Names

During October nirvana for baseball fans, let's cover a strip about America's Pastime.

NEA's sports cartoonist Art Krenz produced a closed-end series featuring short bios of up and coming rookie baseball players for the 1939 season, titling it Baseball's New Big Names. The series began running on a daily basis starting on May 22 1939, but then seems to have later been issued at the rate of one or two strips per week, petering out toward the end of the baseball season.

Since I had to find every installment of the series in order to determin its longevity, I may as well pass along this presumably complete rookie roster that I was able to locate:

1. Charley Keller
2. Ted Williams
3. Eddie Miller
4. Fern Bell
5. Rip Russell
6. Atley Donald
7. Gene Lillard
8. Jack Kramer
9. Oscar Grimes
10. Jim Tabor
11. (unnumbered) Barney McCloskey
12. (unnumbered) Whitlow Wyatt
13. (unnumbered) Merrill May
14. (unnumbered) Joe Gallagher
15. Alex Carrasquel
16. Jim Gleeson
17. Johnny Berardino
18. Mort Cooper
19. Woody Rich
20. Manuel Salvo
21. Buddy Rosar
22. Marius Russo
23. Mickey Vernon
24. Pete Coscarat
25. Dizzy Trout
26. Bill Nicholson
27. Freddie Hutchinson


Forgive me, Allan, if this is long, but I thought it might interest you to know how these players fared. Quite a mix. One Hall of Famer (Williams, of course), and a number of players who had long, productive careers (Mickey Vernon). Plus one who later starred in TV soaps!

1. Charley Keller - a number of productive seasons during the war with the Yankees
2. Ted Williams - Hall of Famer
3. Eddie Miller - 14 years with a variety of teams, lifetime .238 hitter
4. Fern Bell - 2 years with the Pirates, no real impact
5. Rip Russell - 6 year career with Cubs and Red Sox, missed war years, starter two seasons
6. Atley Donald - 8 years, 65-33 record with the Yankees, mostly during the war.
7. Gene Lillard - 2 years, 3-6 lifetime record with two teams
8. Jack Kramer 4 teams, 12 years, 95-103 record; pitched mainly for the Browns. Very good year for the Red Sox in '48.
9. Oscar Grimes - 3 teams in 9 years, starter for the Yankees late in the war years
10. Jim Tabor 2 teams in 9 years, lifetime .270 hitter
11. (unnumbered) Barney McCoskey 4 teams in 11 years, lifetime .302 hitter
12. (unnumbered) Whitlow Wyatt 16 years, 106-95 lifetime - career started in 1929.
13. (unnumbered) Merrill May (a/k/a Pinky May) 5 years with the Phillies, .275 hitter
14. (unnumbered) Joe Gallagher 2 years, 3 teams, lifetime .273 hitter
15. Alex Carrasquel 8 years, mostly with the Senators, 50-39 lifetime
16. Jim Gleeson 5 years, 3 teams, lifetime .263 hitter
17. Johnny Berardino 11 years, 5 teams (one twice), lifetime .249 hitter

Took up an acting career, later had a long run on the soap 'General Hospital'

18. Mort Cooper 11 years, 4 teams, 128-75 record won 20 games 3x for the Cardinals
19. Woody Rich 4 years, 2 teams, 6-4 lifetime
20. Manuel Salvo 5 years, 3 teams, 33-49 lifetime
21. Buddy Rosar 13 years, 4 teams, .261 lifetime average
22. Marius Russo 6 years, all with the Yankees, 45-34 lifetime.
23. Mickey Vernon 20 years (most notably with Senators), 2495 hits, 2x batting champ
24. Pete Coscarat 9 years with 2 teams, lifetime .243 average
25. Dizzy Trout 15 years (mostly with Tigers) 170-161, won 27 games in 1944
26. Bill Nicholson 16 years (mostly with Cubs), 3 teams, .268 average
27. Freddie Hutchinson 10 years, all with Tigers, 95-71. Later managed the Reds

Thanks very much for the rundown -- I was hoping someone might pick up that gauntlet. 1939 certainly seems to have yielded a bumper crop of long-time major leaguers, though I admit that only about a half-dozen of the names rang any bells for me.

Most of these players were seriously affected by World War II. Many of them were in the service during what would have been their prime of their careers. It's hard to say what would have happened with them but for the war.

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