August 24, 1889|
|Died: August 1, 1966
|September 13, 1910, for the New York Giants|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 29, 1930, for the Boston Braves|
|Runs batted in||322|
|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. 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.
Major League career
He made his major league debut for John McGraw's New York Giants in 1910, before being traded to the Boston the next year. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. He ended his career with a .975 fielding percentage. Gowdy twice led the National League in caught stealing percentage. His 51.54% career caught stealing percentage ranks him seventh in major league history. 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.
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. The baseball field at Fort Benning bears his name. He returned to coaching in 1946 with the Reds, and he even served as manager for four games at the end of the season. By 1948, he had retired from baseball.
Unsuccessful Hall of Fame bid
Gowdy has the record for most unsuccessful Hall of Fame induction attempts, without ever have been enshrined in the Hall. 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, but he was later enshrined by the Veteran's Committee).
- Hank Gowdy at Baseball Reference
- Hank Gowdy at the SABR Bio Project, by Carol McMains and Frank Ceresi., retrieved 17 February 2010
- "How Losing an Exhibition Sparked Miracle Braves", by Joseph M. Overfield, Baseball Digest, May 1961, Vol. 20, No. 4, ISSN 0005-609X
- "The Miracle Braves". thisgreatgame.com. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
- "1914: Hank Gowdy's Big, Big Day", by Francis J. Powers, Baseball Digest, October 1964, Vol. 23, No. 9, ISSN 0005-609X
- Hank Gowdy post-season batting statistics at Baseball Reference
- "How Senators' Strategy Won for Johnson", by Muddy Ruel, Baseball Digest, October 1964, Vol. 23, No. 9, ISSN 0005-609X
- Caught Stealing career leaders at Baseball Reference
- Hank Gowdy manager statistics at Baseball Reference
- Edd Roush at Baseball Reference
- Hank Gowdy New York Times Obituary at www.thedeadballera.com