April 28, 2010
History Corner Archive | Buy Traughber's book Nashville Sports History
In April 1929, the baseball season was about to begin. One Saturday afternoon on the Vanderbilt baseball diamond was a team of professionals. The Cincinnati Reds were in Nashville to play the hometown Vols of the Southern Association in an exhibition game the next day. When conditions were poor for play due to the weather, an alternative site to the Sulphur Dell ballpark was needed.
The Reds would use the Vanderbilt campus for a day of practice and the game with the Vols was played at Centennial Park. One of the Reds' players was George Kelly who was nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career. Jack Hendricks was the Cincinnati manager at this time.
The Tennessean gave this brief report:
- "Quite a sight out at Vanderbilt athletic plant Saturday afternoon. Out on the diamond there was a team of professional ball players limbering up for the big drive in the National League--the Reds who make their home in Cincinnati.
"Sitting behind the netting looking on, the Commodore squad waiting for the start of their game with Cumberland--were many embryo Cobbs and Hornsbys and et cetera no doubt.
"Over on the gridiron, in the stadium proper were the football players going through a spring workout under the drive of Josh Cody.
"Bill Schwartz was sitting among his charges telling them to get an eyeful of the style adopted by some of the Cincinnati sluggers at the plate. Bill couldn't keep his eye from kindling with admiration as he watched George Kelly aspersing them out of the air as the Red infielders tossed them over. Bill was pretty hot at the initial big himself, in the days when he was in the Southern League.
"Vanderbilt, if the eyes of the sport scribes are not are not seeing wrong, will produce some professional material before the season ends. They have a number of fellows who if they desire, may secure transportation to spring training camps immediately following their gradation."
George Kelly, First Base: Kelly had a Hall of Fame career that began in 1915 with the New York Giants. He played for the Giants through 1926 where he was traded to the Reds (1927-29) and finished his career with the Cubs (1930-31) and Brooklyn (1932). In 1921, Kelly made a brilliant first base to third base throw (double play) to cut down Aaron Ward of the Yankees to end the World Series in the Giants favor five games to three. Kelly batted over .300 for six consecutive seasons (1921-26) while clubbing 148 home runs.
Hughie Critz, Second Base: In his first game as a Reds' player in 1924, Critz collected two hits against Grover Cleveland Alexander and batted .322 as a rookie. Critz led the National League in fielding for a second baseman four times and double plays three times. He was traded to the Giants in 1930 and retired there at the end of the 1935 season.
Evar Swanson, Left Field: Swanson played three seasons in the young National Football League (1925-27) as an end for the Chicago Cardinals. He turned to baseball exclusively becoming one of the fastest men in the game. Swanson stole 33 bases and scored 100 runs as a rookie. His lifetime average was .303 with seven home runs and 170 RBI's in 515 games.
Ethan Allen, Centerfield: Allen never played a single game in the minor leagues, but hit with consistency in a 13-year career. He batted .300 with 47 home runs and 501 RBI's in 1,281 games. Allen was a successful college coach and wrote several books on the techniques of playing baseball.
Curt Walker, Right Field: Walker batted over .300 in six of his full 10 seasons in the major leagues. He was known for stretching doubles into triples with his speed recording 117 three-base hits in his career. Walker was called Honey because he was from Beeville, Texas. Before joining the Reds, Walker played with the Yankees, Giants and Phillies.
Chuck Dressen, Third Base: Dressen played quarterback for George Halas of the Decatur Staleys (forerunner of the Chicago Bears) then turned to the major leagues for Cincinnati (1925-31) and the Giants (1933). He is best known as a major league manager. Dressen managed for Cincinnati (1934-37), Brooklyn (1951-53), Washington (1955-57), Milwaukee (1960-61) and Detroit (1963-66). Dressen guided the Dodgers to two World Series defeats in 1952 and 1953. He also played for the Nashville Vols in 1932 and 1933 and became their manager in 1938.
Hod Ford, Shortstop: Ford was attending Tufts University when he joined the Braves in 1919. He set a record (later broken) for double plays by a shortstop in 1928 while playing for the Reds. Ford batted .263 in his career with 16 home runs and 494 RBI's in 1,446 games.
Johnny Gooch, Catcher: Gooch was born in Smyrna, Tennessee and became dependable behind the plate for the Pirates (1922-27) and hit .322 as a rookie. He finished his career with Brooklyn, Cincinnati and the Red Sox. Gooch batted .280 for his career with seven home runs and 293 RBI's in 815 games. He appeared in two World Series and later became a successful minor league manager. Gooch also played for the Nashville Vols in 1935.
Red Lucas, Pitcher: Lucas led the Reds in pitching for the 1929 season with a 19-12 record. He was born in Columbia, Tennessee. He won 109 games for the lowly Reds from 1926-33. In 1933, he only walked 18 batters in 220 innings of work. Lucas' 1.61 walks per nine innings ranks him 20th all-time. In 396 games with the Giants, Braves, Reds and Pirates, Lucas was 157-135 with a 3.72 ERA for a career. He also played for the Nashville Vols in 1921-22.
Schwartz was Vanderbilt's coach who had some major league experience himself. In 1904, Schwartz appeared in 24 games with Cleveland batting .151 (13-for-86) with no home runs and no RBI's. He did steal four bases while playing first base in the field. Schwartz also managed the Nashville Vols (1911-15) never finishing higher than fourth place in the Southern Association. He coached at Vanderbilt (1917, 1924-40, 1952) and ranks fourth all-time in wins (155-112-1).
The Cincinnati Reds finished the 1929 season in seventh place (eight teams) in the National League with a 66-88 record. At this time there had been and would be major league baseball players from Vanderbilt. These are the names of Vanderbilt baseball players that made it to the major leagues with their debut year:
Charlie Moran (1903), Vin Campbell (1908), Wilson Collins (1913), Doc Cook (1913), Scrappy Moore (1917), Harvey Hendrick (1923), Slim Embrey (1923), Andy Reese (1927), Mal Moss (1930), Rip Sewell (1932), Mike Willis (1977), Scott Sanderson (1978), Scotti Madison (1985), Joey Cora (1987), Josh Paul (1999), Mark Prior (2002), Matt Kata (2003), Jeremy Sowers (2006), Jensen Lewis (2007) and David Price (2008).
Traughber's Tidbit: Dominic de la Osa (2005-08) holds Vanderbilt's all-time career hits record with 300. Karl Nonemaker (1999-2002) ranks second with 283 and Boomer Whipple is third with 282.
Tidbit Two: Pedro Alvarez (2006-08) and Scotti Madison (1977-80) hold the all-time record for career home runs. Alvarez clubbed 22 dingers in 2006 for the Commodores' single-season record.
Tidbit Three: Jeff Peeples (1970-73) holds Vanderbilt's record for most career pitching wins with 29. Jim Gibbs (1981-84) ranks second with 25 and Mike Willis (1969-72) is third with 24. Peeples (1973) and Casey Weathers (2007) hold the all-time victories for a single-season with 12.
If you have any comments or suggestions you can contact Bill Traughber via email WLTraughber@aol.com.
1929 Vanderbilt Baseball Team