It's a small detail, like the birthdate, the height and weight and if the player throws and bats right or left-handed. But it adds to the enjoyment of the game and it helps us get to know the players we spend time with in our replays a bit better.
So, as I roll the 1950 baseball replay that I've been doing for almost a year now, I've also been paying attention to the hometowns of these players and, because I've got ample time apparently, I've looked up more information on some of these places.
For starters, I went through all the cards to see who hails from my state of Arkansas. I knew George Kell, the Detroit Tigers' third baseman came from Swifton, Ark., a small farming community about 30 miles from where I live. I got to meet Kell years ago at a high school basketball tournament in his town. But I didn't know one of his teammates, pitcher Marlin Stuart, came from Paragould, Ark., some 20 miles north of here. I wondered if the two grew up playing American Legion baseball together, which is popular here.
That led to finding other Arkansans in the 1950 replay. I discovered six other Arkansas towns were represented by the players, including Hank Wyse's community of Lunsford, Ark., which is only about 10 miles from where I live. Wyse was a pitcher for the hapless Philadelphia As in my replay.
Johnny Sain, the ace of the 1950 Boston Braves team, was born in Havana, Ark., which is not to be confused with Havana, Cuba, where White Sox relief pitcher Luis Aloma was born. If either pitcher needed a catcher from the homeland, Mike Guerra of the As would step in, although Sain may have trouble communicating since Guerra was from Havana, Cuba, and Sain spoke Arkansan.
And speaking other countries, Bobby Thomson leads the all-star foreign team. A year after the replay which I'm doing, Thomson, on Oct. 3, 1951, hit the “shot heard round the world” when he went yard against the Giants and led the Dodgers to win the pennant, win the pennant. Thomson was from only about a quarter 'round the world, coming from Glasgow, Scotland.
The Phillies' outfielder Elmer Valo was born in Rybnik, Czechoslovakia, and Cleveland spot starter Mario Pieretti, of course, came from Lucca, Italy.
Others stood out as well simply because of their towns.
Ray Mueller, a catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was born in Pittsburg, Kansas. He was just short of an 'h' of spelling his team's town correctly. Maybe he should have gone to school with Eldred Byerly, a Cincinnati Reds pitcher who grew up in Webster Groves, Mo., which was immortalized in that old NBC show about a teacher in the town, Lucas Tanner.
All but Cleveland, Washington and the Boston Red Sox had players born in the towns where they played. Philadelphia had seven players — four for the American League As and three for the Phillies. New York had six players claiming the Big Apple as their home; four played for the Yankees and one each took the field for Brooklyn and the Giants.
Dave Philley and William Eddie Robinson were born within seven months of each other in 1920 in Paris, Texas. The town became the title of a 1984 movie staring Harry Dean Stanton who wanders out of a desert after four years of being lost. Philley and Robinson found found themselves 30 years later in Chicago where they were teammates for the White Sox. Later, Philley was traded several times and ended up with the National League Philadelphia team. Yes, Philley was a Phillies.
And finally, I found that two Cardinals teammates, Del Rice and Rocky Nelson, were both born in Portsmouth, Ohio. The town was home of the Spartans in 1930, an NFL team that played the first night game against the football Brooklyn Dodgers that year. The Spartans soon after moved to Detroit to become the Lions.
Portsmouth, Ohio, obviously bred baseball players. Along with Nelson and Rice, the berg perched on the Ohio and Scioto rivers, was home to Larry Hisle, Josh Newman, Al Oliver, Gene Tenace and Branch Rickey.
It was also, according to the Cleveland Plains Dealer in an April 4, 2012, story, a town with one of the highest prescription drug addiction rates in the country. An Ohio law allowed physicians to prescribe oodles of pain medication provided their patients were documented as being in “intractable pain.” The six pain clinics in Portsmouth dispensed nearly 35 million pain medication pills a year, the story said.
So, those who couldn't hit a fast ball in Portsmouth, apparently hit the speedball of a Vicodin and Oxycontin mix.
So, replayers, while you're looking at the players' ratings or, in later issues, their stats, that are printed on the APBA cards, check out their home towns. You can learn something.