Thurman Tucker

Last updated

Thurman Tucker
Thurman Tucker 1950.jpg
Tucker in 1950
Center fielder
Born:(1917-09-26)September 26, 1917
Gordon, Texas, US
Died: May 7, 1993(1993-05-07) (aged 75)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, US
Batted: LeftThrew: Right
MLB debut
April 14, 1942, for the Chicago White Sox
Last MLB appearance
April 29, 1951, for the Cleveland Indians
MLB statistics
Batting average .255
Home runs 9
Runs batted in 179
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Thurman Lowell Tucker (September 26, 1917 May 7, 1993) was an American professional baseball player. A center fielder, Tucker played in Major League Baseball for nine seasons in the American League with the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians. In 701 career games, Tucker recorded a batting average of .255 and accumulated 24 triples, nine home runs, and 179 runs batted in (RBI). He was nicknamed "Joe E." Tucker because of his resemblance to comedian Joe E. Brown. [1]

Contents

Born and raised in Texas, Tucker first played professionally with the Siloam Springs Travelers. After gradually progressing through minor league baseball, he signed with the Chicago White Sox before the 1941 season. His major league debut came the following year and he spent two years as the White Sox's starting center fielder until he enlisted in the armed forces during World War II. Upon his return, Tucker played two more seasons for the White Sox. Subsequently, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, for whom he played four years, and continued to play minor league baseball throughout the 1950s. After his retirement, he became a major league scout and insurance agent.

Early life

Thurman Tucker was born on September 26, 1917, and raised in Gordon, Texas. In high school, he was a three-sport athlete, playing baseball (where he was a second baseman), basketball, and track and field. After graduating in 1935, he played semi-professional baseball and enrolled in a baseball school located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1936, at age 18, Tucker signed as a professional with the Fayetteville Bears of the Arkansas–Missouri League, but left the team after only two weeks, without playing a game. Soon after, he was signed by the Siloam Springs Travelers of the same league, where he began his professional career. [2]

Minor league career

In 1936, his first season with the Travelers, Tucker changed fielding positions and became an outfielder. [2] In 117 games, he had a .319 batting average and 25 doubles. [3] The following year, he was to play for the El Dorado Lions of the Cotton States League, but a back injury caused him to miss nearly the entire season. [2] After recovering from the injury, Tucker continued to progress through the minors, spending 1938 with two separate clubs; he played 55 games for the Abbeville A's of the Evangeline Baseball League and 50 games for the Greenville Bucks of the Cotton States League. [3] He remained in the Cotton States League for 1939, playing for the Clarksdale Red Sox, at the time a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. In 136 games for Clarksdale, Tucker had a .298 batting average and 10 triples. [3] During his first few years in the minor leagues, one manager asked him to take up clowning due to his resemblance to Joe E. Brown and his nickname as a result, Joe E. Tucker objected due to his serious nature and the idea was later dropped. [2]

Tucker's breakthrough minor league year came in 1940, his second with Clarksdale. By the end of June, he was leading the Cotton State League with a batting average of .374. [4] After playing in 97 games, finishing with an average of .390, Tucker was promoted and played in 40 games for the Oklahoma City Indians. [3] At the end of the season, Chicago White Sox farm manager Billy Webb was impressed enough to purchase Tucker's contract from Oklahoma City. [5] At the beginning of the 1941 season, Tucker failed to win the final outfield spot on the White Sox roster from Dave Short, [6] and consequently spent 1941 at Oklahoma City, where he was coached by Rogers Hornsby. [7] In 141 games for the Indians, Tucker had a batting average of .246 and 12 triples. [3]

At spring training for the 1942 season, Tucker competed against Dave Philley for the final outfield spot. [8] White Sox management liked Tucker's defensive abilities, leading to them adding Tucker to their 1942 major league roster; Tucker made his major league debut on April 14, 1942. [9] After playing two games for the White Sox, Tucker was sent down to the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League, [10] where he spent most of the season and hit .313 in 144 games. [3] When the minor league season ended, Tucker returned to the major league squad, and finished the year having played seven games for the White Sox. [9]

Chicago White Sox

Of the Chicago White Sox outfielders at the beginning of the 1943 season, only Wally Moses was assured of a place on the team. During spring training, manager Jimmy Dykes was impressed by Tucker, who was competing for the starting center fielder position alongside Moose Solters. [11] Consequently, after spring training Tucker became the starting center fielder for 1943, and the team's leadoff hitter. [12] Partway through the season, Tucker's performance caught the eye of American League President Will Harridge, who noted him as someone the public came out to watch in the absence of stars serving in World War II. [13] Among Tucker's achievements during the year were a walk-off home run on July 26 to win a game against the New York Yankees 2–1. [14] Tucker finished the season with a .235 batting average, six triples, and 79 walks in 135 games. He also stole 29 bases, the third best total in the AL, and was caught stealing 17 times, which was second in the league. [9]

Tucker passed a physical examination for the United States Navy before the 1944 season began. Although expected to be called up to serve in the war that year, [15] he was able to play the entire season for the White Sox. Tucker hit very well during the first month of 1944; he had a .403 batting average on May 16, which led the American League. [16] His hitting and fielding abilities impressed critics: sportswriter Fred Lieb noted him as a breakout performer that year, [17] and manager Jimmy Dykes called Tucker the finest defensive outfielder in the American League. [18] Tucker and Dixie Walker led their respective leagues in batting average throughout June; at the end of the month, Tucker had an average of .369 in the American League while Walker had an average of .377 in the National League. [19] Owing to his achievements, Tucker was added to the 1944 All-Star roster for the only time in his career. [20] He was the leadoff hitter in the 1944 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, but went hitless in four at-bats. [21]

Tucker's form faded after the All-Star Game; in early July, he had a hitless streak of 28 at-bats, causing his batting average to shrink from .375 to .327, resulting in losing his status as league leader. [22] When his average fell to .320 after recording one base hit in 35 at-bats, he was removed from the starting lineup for a weekend matchup against the Detroit Tigers in an attempt to halt his decline. [23] Tucker returned to the starting lineup shortly after being removed, and finished the season with a batting average of .287 and six triples. [9] At the end of July that season, both Tucker and George Case participated in a 75-yard dash as part of the White Sox's annual benefit for the war effort; Tucker lost the race to Case by a yard. [24] After the season ended, Tucker formally joined the Navy, and spent the 1945 season serving in the war. [25]

When the players returned to their teams at the end of the war, Tucker was slated to be the starting center fielder for the 1946 season, working alongside Wally Moses and Taffy Wright. [26] Unlike the previous season, he struggled with the bat at first, and was relegated to his original status on the White Sox roster as a good fielder but a poor hitter. [27] At the end of June, Tucker had a batting average of .229, nearly 150 points lower than his average at the same point in 1944. [28] His form recovered in the second half of the season and he finished the year with a batting average of .288 and 20 doubles, both career highs. [9] As the 1947 Chicago White Sox season began, Tucker remained in his center field position after hitting .400 in the last month of the 1946 season, while rookie Dave Philley played in left field and Taffy Wright and Bob Kennedy platooned in right field. [29] However, he started the year by missing some playing time due to a stomach ailment, and did not play regularly for the White Sox until the middle of May. [30] After returning to regular play, Tucker alternated playing time with Philley, and he finished the season with a .236 batting average in 89 games. [9]

Cleveland Indians

Tucker on a 1951 card Thurman Tucker.jpg
Tucker on a 1951 card

On January 27, 1948, Tucker was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Ralph Weigel; the Indians front office regarded Tucker as "the finest defensive player in baseball." [31] He started off the year as the starting center fielder for the Indians, and in one early matchup against the Detroit Tigers, was the only player not to record a hit in an 8–2 victory. [32] He missed three weeks of playing time in June after breaking a finger when he was hit by a pitch. [33] Upon returning to the lineup, Tucker spent most of the second half of the season as a fourth outfielder, splitting time with Allie Clark and playing in the outfield alongside Larry Doby and Dale Mitchell. [34] He finished the season with a .260 batting average and 52 runs in 83 games, and ended the season with a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000. [9] Tucker participated in game six of the 1948 World Series, scoring a run in the sixth inning on a walk en route to a 4–3 win for the Indians. [35]

The Indians planned to use Tucker as their fourth outfielder for the 1949 season when he served mostly as backup to Doby. [36] He was relegated mostly to pinch hitting duties, and finished the season with a .244 batting average in 20 games and under 200 at-bats. [9] Due to his hitting struggles, Indians manager Lou Boudreau tried converting Tucker to a switch hitter to start off the 1950 season. [37] Tucker was again set to be a backup outfielder in 1950. His performances during the year included hitting a home run, the only one he hit that season, in an 8–5 victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers; the teams raised $60,000 in that game to benefit sandlot teams in Cleveland. [38] Tucker finished the season with a .178 batting average in 54 games, the lowest mark of his career. [9]

Tucker and Allie Clark both attempted to make the Indians roster to begin the 1951 season, as the additions of Harry Simpson and Minnie Miñoso made it likely that one or both of them would be traded or released. [39] Tucker played only one game for the Indians, on April 29 when he recorded a strikeout in his lone at-bat. [9] In early May, the Indians sent him to their Triple-A minor league affiliate, the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League; his last major league game was April 29. [9] [40]

Later life

After being sent to the Padres, Tucker completed the 1951 season with them. In 88 games, Tucker had two triples and a .222 batting average. [3] In the offseason, Tucker operated his own taxicab in Texas, and he contemplated retirement from baseball during a contract dispute in February 1952. [41] He eventually played 47 games for the now-unaffiliated Padres, hitting .225 in the process. [3] In mid-June, the Padres sold his contract to the Oklahoma City Indians. [42] Tucker played in 72 games for the Indians that season, hitting .263. He retired from baseball before the 1953 season, and did not play with any professional team during that time. [3]

Tucker returned to baseball in 1954 to play for the Lubbock Hubbers of the West Texas–New Mexico League. He played part-time for the team, serving as a replacement when players needed time off, whether through injury or to spend time with their families. [43] He hit .360 in 25 games for the Hubbers. [3] The following year, he served as player-manager for the Carlsbad Potashers of the Longhorn League. Tucker hit .275 in 114 games for the Potashers, including 25 doubles and eight home runs. [3] [44] He continued as player-manager for the Potashers in 1956, but the management considered firing him during a 14-game losing streak. [45] He finished the year with a .306 batting average in 128 games. The following season, he was the player-manager of the Hobbs Sports, but only played in 16 games for them, hitting .273. [3] In 1958, he ended his playing career, and became the general manager of the Hobbs team. [46]

After retiring, Tucker became an insurance agent and lived in Oklahoma City. He married and had four children; his son Ronald served in the Vietnam War. [1] In 1962, he also became one of the Houston Astros' first scouts. [47] Tucker died on May 7, 1993, in Oklahoma City and is buried at Gordon Cemetery in his hometown of Gordon, Texas. [9]

Related Research Articles

Minnie Miñoso Cuban baseball player

Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso, nicknamed "The Cuban Comet" and "Mr. White Sox", was a Cuban professional baseball player. He began his baseball career in the Negro leagues in 1946 and became an All-Star third baseman with the New York Cubans. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball (MLB) after the 1948 season as baseball's color line fell. Miñoso went on to become an All-Star left fielder with the Indians and Chicago White Sox. The first Black Cuban in the major leagues and the first black player in White Sox history, as a 1951 rookie he was the one of the first Latin Americans to play in an MLB All-Star Game.

Ángel Alfonso Bravo Urdaneta is a former Venezuelan Major League Baseball center fielder. He was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent before the 1963 season, and played for the White Sox (1969), Cincinnati Reds (1970–1971) and San Diego Padres (1971). A native of Maracaibo Zulia, he batted and threw left-handed.

Pat Seerey American baseball player

James Patrick Seerey was an American professional baseball player. An outfielder, Seerey played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for seven seasons in the American League with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. In 561 career games, Seerey recorded a batting average of .224 and accumulated 86 home runs and 261 runs batted in (RBI).

Dave Roberts (outfielder) American baseball player and manager

David Ray Roberts is an American professional baseball manager and former outfielder who is the manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball (MLB). He played for five MLB teams over a ten-year career and then coached for the San Diego Padres before being named Dodgers manager for the 2016 season. The son of a Japanese mother and African American father, Roberts became the first manager of Asian heritage to lead a team to the World Series in 2017, when the Dodgers captured the National League pennant. Although he played for the Boston Red Sox for only part of one season, his most notable achievement as a player was a key stolen base in the 2004 ALCS that ignited the Red Sox's drive to their championship that year. Roberts batted and threw left-handed.

Wally Moon American baseball player

Wallace Wade Moon was an American professional baseball outfielder in Major League Baseball. Moon played his 12-year career in the major leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals (1954–58) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1959–65). He batted left-handed and threw right-handed.

Mark Kotsay American baseball player

Mark Steven Kotsay is an American former professional baseball outfielder and current Oakland Athletics quality control coach.

Pete Fox American baseball player

Ervin "Pete" Fox was an American professional baseball player from 1930 to 1946. He played 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, principally as a right fielder, for the Detroit Tigers from 1933 to 1940 and the Boston Red Sox from 1941 to 1945. Though his given name was Ervin, Fox became known as "Pete" in 1932 when fans in Beaumont, Texas, dubbed him "Rabbit" in reference to his speed, with the nickname reportedly evolving into "Peter Rabbit" and then simply "Pete".

Allie Clark American baseball player

Alfred Aloysius "Allie" Clark was an American right fielder in Major League Baseball who played for seven seasons in the American League with the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox. In 358 career games, Clark recorded a batting average of .262 and accumulated 32 home runs and 149 runs batted in (RBIs).

Al Zarilla American baseball player

Allen Lee "Zeke" Zarilla was an American professional baseball player, scout and coach. He played as an outfielder in Major League Baseball from 1943 to 1953, most notably as a member of the only St. Louis Browns team to win an American League pennant in 1944. He also played for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, primarily as a right fielder. Zarilla batted left-handed and threw right-handed, and was listed as 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) tall and 180 pounds (82 kg).

Carlos Quentin American baseball player

Carlos José Quentin is an American former professional baseball outfielder. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres. In 2008 and 2011, Quentin was selected as an All-Star.

José Vidal (baseball) Dominican baseball player

José Vidal Nicolás, nicknamed "Papito", was a Dominican Major League Baseball outfielder. He was signed by the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent before the 1958 season. He played for the Cleveland Indians (1966–1968) and Seattle Pilots (1969). He also played one season in Japan for the Nishitetsu Lions (1971). During a 4-year major league baseball career, He hit .164, three home runs, and 10 runs batted in.

Baby Doll Jacobson American baseball player

William Chester "Baby Doll" Jacobson was an American baseball outfielder. He played 11 seasons of Major League Baseball, principally with the St. Louis Browns, between 1915 and 1927. He also played for the Detroit Tigers (1915), Boston Red Sox (1926–1927), Cleveland Indians (1927), and Philadelphia Athletics (1927).

Dave Philley American baseball player

David Earl Philley was an outfielder who played in Major League Baseball. A switch hitter who threw right-handed, he debuted on September 6, 1941 and played his final game on August 6, 1962. He was born in Paris, Texas.

Hal Peck American baseball player

Harold Arthur "Hal" Peck was an American professional baseball right fielder. He played seven seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1943 to 1949 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland Indians. In 355 career games, Peck recorded a batting average of .279 and accumulated 15 home runs and 112 runs batted in (RBI).

The 1948 Chicago White Sox season was the team's 48th season in the major leagues, and its 49th season overall. They finished eighth (last) in the American League with a 51–101 record, 44.5 games behind the first place Cleveland Indians. In 114 seasons, the White Sox have only once had a worse winning percentage. This was the first year of many for White Sox television broadcasts on WGN-TV channel 9.

The 1941 Chicago White Sox season was the White Sox's 41st season in the major leagues, and their 42nd season overall. They finished with a record 77–77, good enough for 3rd place in the American League, 24 games behind the first place New York Yankees.

Jon Jay American baseball player

Jonathan Henry Jay is an American professional baseball center fielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox.

The 1937 San Diego Padres season, was the second season for the original San Diego Padres baseball team of the Pacific Coast League (PCL). The team began in 1903 as the Sacramento Solons, a charter member of the PCL. The team moved several times and were the Hollywood Stars from 1926 to 1935. Team owner Bill Lane moved the team from Hollywood to San Diego in 1936. The 1937 Padres won the PCL pennant after defeating Sacramento Solons and the Portland Beavers in post-season series.

References

  1. 1 2 DuVall, Bob (July 1971). "Whatever Became Of...". Baseball Digest . p. 81.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Vaughan, Irving (June 17, 1943). "They Laugh When Tucker Makes Joe Brown Faces, But He's No Joke to Rivals When He Runs the Bases". The Sporting News . p. 3.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "Thurman Tucker Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com . Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  4. "Cotton States League". The Sporting News. June 27, 1940. p. 11.
  5. "Dykes Checks Off For Untouchables". The Sporting News. November 14, 1940. p. 5.
  6. "White Sox May Worry Other Clubs if New Talent Produces". Schenectady Gazette . March 14, 1941. p. 31.
  7. Cronley, John (April 10, 1941). "Tucker, Back From White Sox, Delights Oklahoma City Fans". The Sporting News. p. 8.
  8. "White Sox Need Batting Strength If They Are To Be Title Threat". Painesville Telegraph . March 31, 1942. p. 7.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "Thurman Tucker Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
  10. "Tucker Released". Christian Science Monitor . April 28, 1942. p. 16.
  11. "Rookies Hold Key to ChiSox Fortunes". The Palm Beach Post . March 28, 1943. p. 14.
  12. "Speedy Tucker ChiSox Fielder". Prescott Evening Courier . April 16, 1943. p. 5.
  13. Fullerton, Jr., Hugh (June 2, 1943). "Absence of Stars Means Close Race". Ottawa Citizen . p. 14.
  14. "Cardinals Continue Pennant March". Lawrence Journal-World . July 26, 1943. p. 6.
  15. "Briefs From Training Camps". Warsaw Daily Times . March 23, 1944. p. 5.
  16. "Yesterday's Stars". Sarasota Herald-Tribune . May 17, 1944. p. 10.
  17. Lieb, Fred (May 25, 1944). "Hats Off!". The Sporting News. p. 15.
  18. "Dykes Thinks Tucker's No. 1 Star of Loop". Ellensburg Daily Record . June 3, 1944. p. 6. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  19. "Walker and Tucker Continue To Lead Batters in Majors". Toledo Blade . June 27, 1944. p. 19.
  20. "Tucker, Grove Win Places on All-Star Team". Chicago Daily Tribune . July 3, 1944. p. 11.
  21. "July 11, 1944 All-Star Game Play by Play and Box Score". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  22. "Babe O'Rourke in Hospital". The Sporting News. July 13, 1944. p. 14.
  23. "3 Red Sox Holding Spots In League's Top 4 In Batting". Lewiston Daily Sun . July 18, 1944. p. 8.
  24. "Case, Nat Speeder, Is First In Dash". The Milwaukee Journal . July 27, 1944. p. 11.
  25. "Thurman Tucker, Sox Outfielder, Joins Navy". Chicago Daily Tribune. November 19, 1944. p. A2.
  26. "White Sox Outlook is Dull Despite Return of Lyons". Beaver County Times . March 23, 1946. p. 23.
  27. Einstein, Charles (May 21, 1946). "Dykes May Be On Way Out As Sox Sink Lower". The Telegraph-Herald . p. 10.
  28. "Thurman Tucker 1946 Batting Gamelogs". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  29. Woodard, Milt (March 12, 1947). "Balky Philley Reined By Sox". The Sporting News. p. 10.
  30. Woodard, Milt (May 14, 1947). "ChiSox Flag Pulse, Gate Beat in Unison". The Sporting News. p. 8.
  31. "Tribe Trades Weigel for Thurman Tucker". The Telegraph-Herald. January 28, 1948. p. 11.
  32. "Indians Lead in American Loop". The Portsmouth Times . April 24, 1948. p. 15.
  33. McAuley, Ed (June 9, 1948). "Tribe Finally Sours on Seerey, Welcomes Addition of Kennedy". The Sporting News. p. 4.
  34. "Muncrief Hit By Line Drive". The Sporting News. June 30, 1948. p. 10.
  35. "Sixth Game". The Sporting News. October 20, 1948. p. 17.
  36. "Cleveland Strong But Lacks Support". Eugene Register-Guard . April 5, 1949. p. 6.
  37. McAuley, Ed (March 15, 1950). "Boudreau Joins Hank In Picking Redskins". The Sporting News. p. 7.
  38. Lebovitz, Hal (July 19, 1950). "47,755 at Cleveland See Tribe Beat Dodgers, 8–5". The Sporting News. p. 21.
  39. Hichman, Milton (April 10, 1951). "Cleveland's Pennant Hopes Dim for '51". Greensburg Daily Tribune . p. 25.
  40. "Padres Get Tucker". Eugene Register-Guard. May 8, 1951. p. 8.
  41. "Padre Thurman Tucker May Quit Baseball". Los Angeles Times . February 27, 1952. p. C2.
  42. "Sedgman, Rose in Tennis Finals". Los Angeles Times. June 21, 1952. p. B2.
  43. "Class-C Minor League Highlights". The Sporting News. September 1, 1954. p. 35.
  44. "Class C Diamond Fan Is Class A Heckler". Ocala Star-Banner . July 31, 1955. p. 14.
  45. "Class-B Minor League Highlights". The Sporting News. May 16, 1956. p. 35.
  46. "John Quinn, Jr., New G.M., Third Generation in Game". The Sporting News. March 5, 1958. p. 31.
  47. Vanderberg, Bob (October 23, 2005). "Ex-Sox put stamp on original Colt .45s". Chicago Tribune. p. 6.