Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The (duPont Manual High School) Hall of Fame

Well…here’s a quite unusual light Baseball History post o’ the day for all my readers.

I don’t play the ‘roving reporter’ part very well, but as I attended an Open House at duPont Manual High School in Louisville the other day, I passed through the central hallway (as I often do when visiting there) to admire the “Manual Hall of Fame.” This is essentially a hallway of plaques with ‘metal etched’ portraits of many famous Manual alumnus over the years that have been inducted into the school’s alumni Hall of Fame.

Manual High School is rich in history…currently #62 in the top 100 high schools in the U.S., and their famous Football Stadium (built in 1919, renovated since then, but still standing) is a delightfully creepy, yet historic place to visit. Also unusual as the Stadium is a few miles away from the high school itself.

You can read more about Manual and the oldest rivalry in Kentucky high school history on Wikipedia…I could write more about that, but this post is about baseball…and the (Manual High School) Hall of Fame…

When I enjoy my time reading the plaques, I typically pick out the really famous people (Mitch McConnell, Nicole Scherzinger, etc.) but also typically focus on the baseball players

This time around, I thought I’d snap some pictures of the baseball players’ plaques, and share with you their achievements and such.

Photography was, indeed, a challenge…the plaques are mounted on the wall just above eye level, and many subsequent levels higher…so I was a “Manual Dad” on his tippy-toes, snapping shots in the dark hallway with his cell-phone camera.

According to Wiki, there have been at least ten Manual players (not all technically ‘graduates’) who have played Major League Baseball, but not all of them are in the Manual Hall of Fame – I’m only focusing on the fellas with plaques.

Harold Henry “Pee Wee” Reese (1918-1999) Inducted 1994
Arguably the most famous and well-known amongst baseball players in the MHS Hall of Fame, Pee Wee was so small we wasn’t able to play for Manual until his senior year. Clocking in at just 120 pounds, Reese only played 6 games as a second baseman. Upon graduating from Manual in 1937 (according to Wiki, that is…the plaque says 1935), he went on to amateur church league baseball until his skills there helped earn him a spot on the roster of the minor league Louisville Colonels (then, a Red Sox farm system affiliate) as their regular shortstop in 1938. In 1939, the Red Sox performed a famous lopsided transaction that sent Reese to the Brooklyn Dodgers for $35K and 4 PTBNL. The rest is truly baseball history…from 1940-1943, and 1946-1958 Reese was a high-quality fixture for the Dodgers, recognized more today for his ‘open embrace’ of Jackie Robinson in the squad than for his WAR or BABIP. Reese was always a fixture in the Louisville area during and after his baseball and broadcasting career, he died here in 1999. You can find a street here named after him, and his statue in front of Louisville Slugger Field is a well known place to meet before a Louisville Bats game. It is still and has always been a superstitious practice of mine to ‘touch his cleats (on the statue)’ for good luck whenever leaving a Bats game.He was a Dodger...

Ferdinand Maurice “Ferdie” Schupp (1891-1971) Inducted 2011
Ferdie was one of Manual Baseball’s first ‘stars,’ even though he left the school two months before graduating. Schupp started his professional career pitching for the Decatur (Illinois) Commodores of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League in 1912. The following year, at age 22, he signed with the New York Giants (and John McGraw) and the southpaw saw regular starts in 1916, leading up to his appearances in the 1917 World Series (and posting a 21-7 W-L record with a 1.95 ERA during the 1917 season). His prime achievement during the series was his 5-0 shutout of the White Sox in Game 4. Schupp was sent to the Cardinals in 1919, then to the Brooklyn Robins in 1921 and the Chicago White Sox in 1922, ending his career in the Major Leagues with a 61-39 W-L record and 3.32 ERA. From there, he spent 1922-1930 in the Minor Leagues for the likes of the Kansas City Blues, the Seattle Indians, the Indianapolis Indians, the Fort Worth Panthers, and the Minneapolis Millers (never appearing any higher than AA). Schupp died in Los Angeles, CA at the age of 80.Ferdie with the Brooklyn Robins, c. 1921

Irvine Franklin “Irv” Jeffries (1905-1982) Inducted 1998
There have been several baseball players with the surname “Irvine,” and plenty of those named “Irvin” but Irv Jeffries is the only “Irvine” in the major or minor leagues, according to Baseball Reference. Irv Jeffries was one of the first of Manual’s athletes to earn national recognition of any sort…for the sake of this tour, yes, it was for Baseball. He was an All-State performer in all 3 ‘big sports’ during his day; football, baseball, and basketball (being the captain of Manual’s squad in 1925). Jeffries spent a couple of years on a big league roster, but spent most of his career as a minor leaguer. After high school he attended University of Kentucky for a couple of years and got his professional career started in squads for the Akron Tyrites and Dallas Steers (1928-1929) and the Toledo Mud Hens in 1930, Irv was called up to the Chicago White Sox as a 3B and SS from 1930-1931, after which he returned to minor league ball with the American Association St Paul Saints from 1932-1933. In October 1933, he was drafted by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft and was traded 2 months later to the Phillies, where he remained on the active roster until July 1934 when he was traded to the minor league Baltimore Orioles (then of the International League). Irv spent the next 3 years in Baltimore, in 1937 he went to the Montreal Royals (IL Pirates affiliate at the time) for one season only, then to the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League from 1938-1939. Jeffries ended his career with the Fort Worth Cats in the Texas League in 1940, retiring with a major league triple slash of .234/.284/.321 in 544 plate appearances over 3 seasons and minor league triple slash of .302/.302/.434 in 6,124 plate appearances over 12 seasons. During the 1940s, Irv was a scout for the White Sox and managed the Kingsport Cherokees of the Appalachian League for part of 1949. Irv was born in Louisville and along the way came back here, where he died at the age of 76.The one and only Irvine, with his million dollar smile...

Morris Benton “Moe” Thacker (1934-1997) Inducted 1998
Last but not least, featured in these hallowed halls is our own beloved former Chicago Cub Moe Thacker. Moe was a beast during his school days; he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. He was the Captain of Manual’s State Championship Baseball team in 1952 and would be the last Manual alumnus to make it to the major leagues. Thacker was best known as a catcher, avoiding college and heading to professional baseball right out of high school; signing with the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent. His career in their system began with the Fond du Lac Panthers of the Wisconsin State League in 1952, then the Joplin Miners of the Western Association in 1953 and the Norfolk Tars of the Piedmont League in 1954. 1955 saw Thacker debuting in AA ball on the roster with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association, then breaking out in 1956 with AAA clubs Richmond Virginians (International League) and the Denver Bears (American Association) before returning to AA in 1957 with the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association. Thacker would never make the major league Yankees as an “unknown transaction” sent him to the Chicago Cubs in 1958, where he spent time in the minors with the Fort Worth Cats before playing 11 games with the Cubs. 1959 started with Moe back in Fort Worth (by this time a AAA affiliate) for the entire year. He spent 1960 in both the Houston Buffs (American Association, AAA level) and the Cubs (54 games), and again in 1961 with Houston and the Cubs (25 games). 1962 would be Moe’s only all Cubs season, playing 65 games and boasting a less-than-formidable .187/.287/.234, something much less than solid numbers. In October of 1962 Moe was traded to the St Louis Cardinals in a 6-player deal and only played 3 games with 4 plate appearances for the birds, compiling 3 strikeouts. He spent the rest of his professional career in the minors for St Louis, retiring after the 1964 season with a lifetime .177/.290/.227 in the major leagues. Moe was a successful businessman in the fast food industry and died in Louisville at the age of 63. For me, May 21st will always be “Moe Thacker Day,” a personal reminder that being a Cub just ain’t easy…for Moe it was less easy than most.My favorite picture of Moe, whatta set o' chompers...the true face of a Catcher!

I will have to keep up with future inductions, but judging from the range of talent expressed here, I’m not sure if any baseball players will ever make their debut in the Hall of Fame…at least, not until another new talent appears.

UPDATE (9/13/11) - since posting this, I've done some additional research and have identified 8 additional Manual alumni who have played professional baseball, that is to say that they, for the most part, at least spent time on minor league rosters. I will continue research soon and post a follow-up to this one, as an addendum.

UPDATE #2 (9/29/11) - the second part of this post is up NOW, please check it out! More obscure and essential Baseball mayhem!

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