Monday, June 22, 2015

1950 Tri-State League All-Star Game

It is currently the All-Star Break for the Southern League. While doing some research for foreign born players for Knoxville teams I came across Jack Aragon.

Angel Valdes (Reyes) Aragon was born in Cuba in 1915.  According to his minor league career started with the 1937 Greenwood Giants of the Cotton States League.  He caught for the 1939 Knoxville Smokies of the Southern Association.  He was back in Knoxville in 1950 and 1951 as a player / manager.  The following article lists Aragon's first name as Art.  I don't know why.

In 1950 his team went 0-12 to start the season.  By the time that the Tri-State League had their All-Star game in July the they had improved to a very respectable 49-36, hanging on to second place, right behind Spartanburg.

I'm not sure how the All-Star team was selected in that league, but it looks as if the first place team played the All-Stars.  Maybe a Best versus the Rest.

Greensboro Daily News - July 14, 1950

According to the newspaper Knoxville had four players on that All-Star team.  Al Neil and Harvey Gentry were scheduled to play in the outfield and Hugh Oser and Joe Asbill were lined up to pitch.

The reporting of the All-Star game was very slim at  This was the only note I found.  The All-Stars pummeled the Spartanburg Peaches 19 to 4.

Greensboro Daily News - July 18, 1950

The Sporting News, from the site, came through with some game details.
The Sporting News - July 26, 1950

The only player of the Knoxville All-Stars to make it to the major league was Harvey Gentry who played in five games for the New York Giants in 1954.  He came to bat four times and got one hit for a .250 BA. 

Note: Selection to an All-Star game does not guarantee any future success in the sport.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Chattanooga sent a large sized pudding to Knoxville

I try to keep up with a "This Day in Knoxville Baseball History" to feed to Mick and Justin over at the Smokies Radio Network.  They like to add the stories to their pregame show for some color and stretch.

This post isn't exactly a "it happened on this date" but to celebrate the Lookouts are coming to town today.

Back in August of 1889, the Knoxville Reds hosted the Chattanooga team, at the time known as the Chattanoogas.

The local press tried to set the expectations, letting fans know the Reds would have a tough go with the visitors.

The Knoxville Journal - August 7, 1889

The press wasn't so kind after the games.
     The proof of the pudding is in chewing the string.  Last Thursday Chattanooga sent a large sized pudding to Knoxville, in the shape of a base ball team.  The Knoxville Reds sized up the pudding, gave it six or seven white washes and gulped it down with as much ease as an anaconda would swallow a mouse.

The Knoxville Journal - August 10, 1889

The Reds won all three games and the sportswriter saw fit to put their fielding and batting averages for the series in the paper.  He also included the a zinger to close.
     Following is the latest catechism that every Knoxville boy repeats before going to bed:
     "Where is Knoxville?"
     "Knoxville is situated in East Tennessee, of which is is the emporium, on the Tennessee river."
     "For what is it noted?"
     "For being the home of the Knoxville Reds, a base ball organization."
     "Where is Chattanooga?"
     "Chattanooga is a country village situated one hundred miles from Knoxville."
     "For what is it noted?"
     "It is chiefly noted for being the home of an alleged lot of ball players who were eaten up by the Knoxville Reds"

The Knoxville Journal - August 12, 1889
You may note several of the Reds players are the same as those featured in this photo, specifically:
  • James Waters
  • Please McClung
  • Deadrick McClung
  • Guy McCaffry
images from

Monday, June 1, 2015

1930s Stein's Baseball Team

Earlier today MLB Historian John Thorn tweeted:

That reminded me of a team in Knoxville, probably in the early 1930s.  Stein's.

image N-4677 "Stein's baseball players showing backs of uniforms."
from The Thompson Photograph Collection

The player on the front row, left (below), reminds me a bit of Ted Kluszewski, what with his torn sleeves and all.

image N-4678 "Stein's baseball players wearing uniforms with $12.50 on front."
from The Thompson Photograph Collection
part of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

I haven't yet researched the team in the local newspapers.  My assumption is that it was one of many factory teams that played in the city leagues.

Another photo from the Calving M. McClung Digital Collection shows the Stein's store, but by 1937 the suit prices had risen to $16.50
image N-5904 "East side of Market Square from Union Avenue to Wall Avenue, Knoxville, TN. October 28, 1937.
Partial view of Market House at left. T.E. Bruns Co. in center. At left: Corkland's, Stein's All Wool Clothes, Miller's Annex, French Booterie. Trucks and cars parked in front of stores. Ordered by Wallace & Wallace."
from The Thompson Photograph Collection
part of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

The 1933 Knoxville City Directory shows that Stein Brothers was located at 10 Market Square.

Knoxville, Tennessee, City Directory, 1933
. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Stein's was a staple across the nation, at least in principal cities.
The Augusta Chronicle - November 1, 1931

A few years later we learn that Steins had two factories.  One in Knoxville and the other in Syracuse.  I have yet to determine the location of the Knoxville factory.

The State-Times (Baton Rouge) - April 18, 1933
If Stein's were around today, I'd support them.  A suit for $12.50?  And they have a baseball team?  I'll take two.

Newspaper images from

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Too Hot for Base Ball

Summer is coming soon. That means the temperature will be rising. Some things don't change.

Press and Messenger (Knoxville) - June 30, 1875

image from

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Holstons first game?

Adam Alfrey, co-captain of the modern day Knoxville Holstons that play as part of the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball, transcribed the following story on the team's website.

The Knoxville Whig - May 8, 1867
I think that Adam correctly says that to date this is "the the earliest reference to the Holston Base Ball Club playing a match in Knoxville...".

The club itself is mentioned the week before in a story about a Base Ball Convention that was held in Chattanooga.  It was published in the Nashville Union and Dispatch on May 3, 1867.

Keep up the good work, Adam.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

1982 Strohs & WOKI Beer Night

As time allows I've been slipping some "This Day in Smokies' History" to Mick Gillispie and Justin Rocke for their radio broadcasts of the Smokies games. I thought I'd feature this one here.

The end of April, 1982, saw the Smokies Blue Jays in first place in the Western Division of the Southern League.  Promotions are always a part of minor league play, so why not partner with Strohs and radio station WOKI and celebrate baseball and beer?

The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 27, 1982

Really, what could go wrong?  Fortunately, nothing like that.  The Blue Jays beat the Savannah Braves, 5-4.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 29, 1982

DH Vernon Ramie, who finished the season with a .285 BA, homered that night.  Verne never made it out of the minors.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel - April 29, 1982

I guess the promotion worked, as there were 867 fans in attendance.  That's up 707 from the night before when they beat Savannah 19-5.

The Blue Jays went on to finish the regular season with a 73-71 record, just behind Nashville Sounds (77-67).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Knoxville Reds photo - mid 1880s

The Knoxville Sunday Journal - April 26, 1936
     The Knoxville Reds, more than 50 years ago, was one of the most famous baseball teams ever to play in the South, at that time.  Standing, left to right: Link Houk, James Waters, Dave Thomas, Lon Fiske, Please McClung.  Seated: Deadrick McClung, Guy McCaffry, Dutch Roth, Joe Wilson, Hugh Rogers.
     Joe Wilson, who recently retired as chief of traffic police, tells with pride of their trips and victories over the state and through the south.  The members of the team paid their own expenses, the uniforms were made at home and that shield so proudly displayed was hand-embroidered by a fond mother or sweetheart.
     One of the big games was played at Cleveland, Tenn., for a grand prize of $75 and Knoxville won.  "That was a mountain in those days," says Captain Wilson, "and we thought we were mighty lucky."  The greatest victory was the defeat of the Cincinnati Shamrocks.  Admission was charged for that game, a custom which not usual.  Captain Wilson would not divulge anything about the heart secrets of this handsome group, except to admit that his wife did come to see him play, but the girls never followed the team out of town, as is the custom for the football games of today.

    Charles Pleasant "Pleas" McClung was born ca. 1864.  Deadrick McClung was born ca. 1867.  If these men were about 21 years old in the photo, it would have been taken roughly in 1885-1889, which matches up with the line in the newspaper article, "The Knoxville Reds, more than 50 years ago...".

    Steve Cotham, the McClung Collection Manager, has graciously given me permission to reproduce some baseball images from their digital site on this blog.

    image N-0401 "Unidentified baseball team.  'R' on uniforms."
    from The Thompson Photograph Collection
    part of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

    Just to make things a bit easier, I've added names to the photo.

    So, this victory over the Shamrocks of Cincinnati?  They came to town in early August.

    Knoxville Daily Journal - August 8, 1890
    It could have been the game of August 8, 1890 to which Captain Wilson was referring.

    Knoxville Daily Journal - August 9, 1890

    From the tabulated score, it would appear that only Deadrick McClung, Pease McClung, and Guy McCaffry from the photo were involved in the game against the Shamrocks.

    But a bit more research reveals that the Reds beat the Shamrocks on the 6th of August as well, 4-1 in six innings.  Rain stopped the continuation of that game.

    The unusual custom of charging admission for the game?  Well, they did it just the month before when the Louisville Deppens came to town.

    Curious to see what the Shamrocks looked like?  Here's a photo of them from a few years before they came to Knoxville.

    1886 Cincinnati Shamrocks
    image from Lelands' November 2009 Auction Catalog

    1936 newspaper clipping from the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection
    clear image of the Knoxville Reds from the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection
    1890 newspaper clippings from
    Shamrocks photo from