Earning His “Spot” Among The Greats
Greetings From the Booth!
A nod to Dads everywhere as we approach Fathers Day weekend. Thanks to all you do and all you have done over the years, from giving such sage advice as “go ask your Mother”, to teaching us how to throw and hit a baseball, and everything in between. I always say that I got my love of reading from my Mom and my sense of humor from my Dad. I wasn’t sure I would have my Father around this year. He’s been in and out of various hospitals for the better part of the year, and just recently was able to return to his home, where he can relax and watch the Nats every day (like Father, like Son).
With all that being said, let your Dad know you appreciate him this Sunday. Remember that for all their shortcomings, most Dads have tried to do their best.
Now, on to the topic at hand. This Friday night (6-14) is “Spottswood Poles Night” at the Winchester Royals Valley League baseball game. For those who don’t know, “Spot” Poles might be one of the best baseball players you’ve never heard of. Most of us know names like Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Rube Foster, and Buck Leonard, greats who played in the Negro League and never got to show their skills in the Major Leagues. Add Poles to that list.
Born in December of 1887 in Winchester, Va., Spottswood Poles would become one of the fastest players of his day. In terms of speed, he was mentioned in the same breath as Bell, and the legendary Ty Cobb.
(It’s worth noting here that Cobb, often portrayed as a racist, underwent a change in attitude following his retirement, and spoke in favor of black players joining Major League teams.)
Poles became a professional in 1909 with the Philadelphia Giants, and then went to New York with the Lincoln Giants, where he would hit an incredible .487 against all competition in 1914.
His baseball career would be interrupted by World War I, where Poles served with distinction, earning 5 battle stars and a Purple Heart, and achieving the rank of sergeant. He would resume his baseball career, playing with the Lincoln Giants again from 1919 until 1923.
Poles would retire comfortably until his death at 74 in 1962 in Harrisburg, Pa. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery.
Because African-Americans were kept out of the white Major Leagues until 1947 (when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier), there is always the ongoing debate about how the superstars of the Negro League would do against the white legends of the day. Consider this: Spottswood Poles batted an almost unheard-of .610 against white major league teams, and even had 3 consecutive hits off of the great Grover Cleveland Alexander, who won 373 games (with 90 shutouts) during his Hall of Fame career.
Friday night Spottswood Poles will be honored with an historical marker amidst the baseball complex at Jim Barnett Park in his birthplace of Winchester. Unfortunately, it is only on the fields of our imagination that we can see players like Poles flashing their skills in an integrated Major League.
This week he finally takes his rightful “Spot.”
Until the next visit from The Booth, Happy Fathers Day, and GO HORNETS!