Hank Gowdy

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Hank Gowdy
Hank Gowdy.jpg
Catcher
Born: (1889-08-24)August 24, 1889
Columbus, Ohio
Died: August 1, 1966(1966-08-01) (aged 76)
Columbus, Ohio
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 13, 1910 for the New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
August 29, 1930 for the Boston Braves
Career statistics
Batting average .270
Home runs 21
Runs batted in 322
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Henry Morgan Gowdy (August 24, 1889 – August 1, 1966) was an American professional baseball catcher and a first baseman who played in the major leagues for the New York Giants and the Boston Braves.[1] He was best known for being the first active major leaguer to enlist for service in World War I, and for being a member of the 1914 "Miracle" Boston Braves.[2]

Major League career[edit]

He made his major league debut for John McGraw's New York Giants in 1910, before being traded to the Boston the next year.[1] He didn't have much playing time, and spent the majority of the 1913 season with the Buffalo Bisons in the International League. In 1914, Gowdy became the Braves regular catcher in a year that saw them go from last to first in two months, becoming the first team to win a pennant after being in last place on the Fourth of July.[3][4] In the 1914 World Series, he had a .545 batting average, including the only home run of the series, in the historic upset of Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics.[2][5][6]

Gowdy saw more playing time in subsequent seasons, but when World War I broke out, he became the first major league player to sign up.[2] He saw considerable action in France with the 166th Infantry Regiment of the Ohio National Guard, including some of the worst trench fighting in the war.[2] When he returned in 1919, he got his old job as a catcher back, but not before going on a speaking tour of the United States, detailing his war experiences.[2] Four years later, he was traded back to the Giants, where he played in the 1923 and 1924 World Series, but his heroics weren't repeated, as he committed a costly error which led to the game-winning run in Game 7 against the Washington Senators.[7] In 1925, the Giants released him. Four years later, he made a comeback with Braves, albeit with very limited playing time. He then became a coach with the Giants, Braves, and the Reds.[2] Later he left his coaching job to serve as a captain in World War II at the age of 53. He's believed to be the only big-league baseball player to serve in both wars.

Career statistics[edit]

In a seventeen-year major league career, Gowdy played in 1,050 games, accumulating 738 hits in 2,735 at bats for a .270 career batting average along with 21 home runs and 322 runs batted in.[1] He ended his career with a .975 fielding percentage.[1] Gowdy twice led the National League in caught stealing percentage.[1] His 51.54% career caught stealing percentage ranks him seventh in major league history.[8] Gowdy's reputation as a defensive stand out is enhanced because of the era in which he played. In the Deadball Era, catchers played a huge defensive role, given the large number of bunts and stolen base attempts, as well as the difficulty of handling the spitball pitchers who dominated pitching staffs.

Coaching career[edit]

Gowdy as Reds coach

When the United States entered World War II, Gowdy enlisted again at the age of 53, and was promoted to major. In December 1944, he returned to Fort Benning, where he served as Chief Athletic Officer.[2] The baseball field at Fort Benning bears his name.[2] He returned to coaching in 1946 with the Reds, and he even served as manager for four games at the end of the season.[9] By 1948, he had retired from baseball.

Unsuccessful Hall of Fame bid[edit]

Gowdy has the record for most unsuccessful Hall of Fame induction attempts. While current custom limits the times a player can appear on the ballot to 15, Gowdy received votes 17 years, never being elected to the Hall of Fame (Edd Roush has the record for most Hall attempts with 19 and was later enshrined by the Veteran's Committee).[10]

Gowdy died at his home in Columbus, OH at age 76.[11] Gowdy Field in Columbus is named in his honor.

References[edit]

External links[edit]