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Alexander, Grover Cleveland (26 February 1887–04 November 1950), professional baseball player, was born in Elba, Nebraska, the son of William Alexander and Margaret Cootey, farmers. Alexander seemed destined for baseball. Even as a youngster, Dode, as he was called, could bring down a wild turkey with a well-aimed rock. After graduating from high school at nearby St. Paul, he worked briefly as a telephone lineman and assiduously at pitching....

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Anson, Cap (17 April 1852–14 April 1922), professional baseball player and manager, was born Adrian Constantine Anson in Marshalltown, Iowa, the son of Henry Anson, a land developer, town founder, and mayor, and Jeannette Rice. By his young adult years, Anson was tall and well built at 6′ and 227 pounds. He often was referred to as “the Swede” because of his square shoulders and wavy blonde hair, but, in fact, his parents were of English-Irish extraction. Anson was taught to play baseball and invited to join his father and older brother who formed the nucleus of the Marshalltown team, an amateur club of great repute. While in his teens, he attracted attention as an outstanding hitter and all-around athlete. Local residents dubbed him the “Marshalltown Infant.”...

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Cap Anson. "Goodwin Champions" baseball card, 1888. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 13163-08, no. 2).

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Appling, Luke (02 April 1907–03 January 1991), baseball player, was born Lucius Benjamin Appling, Jr., in High Point, North Carolina, the son of Lucius Benjamin Appling, a furniture maker, and Dola Sapperfield. While he was in elementary school, Luke's family moved to the Atlanta area. Luke eventually starred in football and baseball at Fulton High School and then for two years at Oglethorpe College. The Atlanta Crackers (a successful minor-league team in the Southern Association) signed him to a professional contract after his sophomore year, and right from the start Appling could hit. His .326 BA (batting average) tempted the Chicago Cubs to purchase his contract, but his 42 errors in 104 games at shortstop reportedly scared the team off. The Chicago White Sox, however, bought him for twenty thousand dollars and brought him to the major leagues for the tail end of the 1930 season. In six games he hit .308, but he also made 4 errors. During the next two years, when he batted only .232 and .274, Chicago fans booed him and dubbed him “Kid Boot,” and the Sox tried unsuccessfully to trade him. Things began to turn around in 1932, however, when he married Faye Nell Dodd on 13 February; the couple subsequently had two daughters and a son....

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Ashburn, Richie (19 March 1927–09 September 1997), baseball player, was born Don Richie Ashburn in Tilden, Nebraska, the son of Neil Ashburn, a machine-shop owner, and Genevieve Ashburn (maiden name unknown). A natural athlete, he later claimed that as a child he chased rabbits through the cornfields outside his small hometown: “I'd run alongside them and catch the fat ones.” While attending high school, he was a star catcher for a local American Legion baseball team and set a Nebraska state sprinting record for the 100-yard dash; his mark of 9.6 seconds stood for 25 years. He attracted the active interest of several major league baseball scouts. In 1944 he signed with the Cleveland Indians, but baseball commissioner ...

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Averill, Earl (21 May 1902–16 August 1983), baseball outfielder, was born Howard Earl Averill in Snohomish, Washington, the son of logger Joseph Averill and Annie Maddox. Reared in the big timber country of the Cascade Mountains near Seattle, young Earl knew hard work in the lumber mills. Although never a big man, his body hardened, and he developed the biceps of a blacksmith....

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Avila, Bobby (02 April 1924–26 October 2004), baseball player, was born Roberto Francisco Avila in Veracruz, Mexico, the son of Jose Avila, a lawyer, and Andrea Gonzalez. As a boy he starred in soccer, playing professionally at age sixteen, and dreamed of becoming a bullfighter. But he found a book by the former major leaguer Jack Coombs and taught himself to play baseball. His career began as a third baseman with Cordoba in the Veracruz State (Winter) League, and he moved on to play with Puebla in the Mexican League from 1943 to 1947, batting .250, .334, .336, .360, and a league-leading .347. When Mexican League president Jorge Pasquel enticed some major league stars south of the border in 1946, Avila realized that he could compete with them. Though his father opposed baseball as a career and young Avila spent three years at the University of Mexico studying engineering, he had found his calling....

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Baker, Home Run (13 March 1886–28 June 1963), baseball player, was born John Franklin Baker in Trappe, Maryland, the son of Franklin Adam Baker, a butcher and farmer, and Mary Catherine Rust. Baker began playing baseball on the farm fields of Trappe and performed for area semiprofessional teams beginning at age nineteen, earning from $5 to $15 a week. He rejected offers from the Texas League because it was too far from home and from the Baltimore Orioles of the International League because he did not think the contract terms were fair. In 1908 he signed with Reading, Pennsylvania, of the Tri-State League, a team controlled by the Philadelphia Athletics, who called him up to Philadelphia that fall....

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Home Run Baker. American Tobacco Co. baseball card, 1911. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 13163-25, no. 169).

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Bamberger, George (01 August 1925–04 April 2004), baseball player, coach, and manager, was born George Irvin Bamberger in Staten Island, New York. After Bamberger's death, a daughter said he had actually been born in 1923 but claimed the later birth date so he would not seem too old as a baseball prospect. Bamberger served in the army during World War II, then he signed with the New York Giants and in 1946 began pitching his way up through the minor leagues. With class C Erie, he compiled a 13-3 won-lost record with a league-leading 1.35 earned run average (ERA), winning him a promotion to class B Manchester in 1947, where he went 12-11, 3.49. He spent 1948 and 1949 with Jersey City, the Giants' top farm club, but his 16-13 record over 2 years and his control problems--he led the International League in wild pitches in 1949 with 11--did not much impress the Giants. In 1950 Bamberger joined Oakland in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), where he spent most of his career as a pitcher. He wound up 17-13 with a 4.23 ERA but walked 112 and led his new league with 13 wild pitches. That year he also married Wilma, with whom he had three daughters....

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Bancroft, David James (20 April 1892–09 October 1972), baseball player, coach, and manager, was born in Sioux City, Iowa, the son of Frank Bancroft, a Milwaukee Railroad news vendor and truck farmer, and Ella Gearhart. From 1907 to 1909 Bancroft attended Sioux City Central High School, where he played baseball. After moving to Superior, Wisconsin, at age seventeen, he married Edna H. Gisin in 1910. They had no children....

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Banks, Ernie (31 Jan. 1931–23 Jan. 2015), baseball player, was the second of twelve children born to Eddie and Essie Banks in Dallas, Texas. Banks grew up in a shotgun house lit by kerosene lamps. His father made ten dollars a week with the Works Progress Administration, and Ernie picked cotton at two dollars a hundredweight. He played softball at Booker T. Washington High School. At seventeen, he barnstormed with the Amarillo-based Detroit Colts and passed his hat for nickels and dimes for every homer he’d hit. At six feet one inch and 180 pounds, Banks hit for power and imitated the short, quick stroke of future major leaguer Hank Thompson. After graduating in ...

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Bauer, Hank (31 July 1922–09 February 2007), baseball player and manager, was born Henry Albert Bauer in East St. Louis, Illinois, the ninth and last child of Austrian immigrant bartender John Bauer and his wife, Mary. He played baseball and basketball at East St. Louis Central Catholic High School, where an opponent's elbow broke his nose, disfiguring him to the point that columnist Jim Murray likened his face to a clenched fist. A brother said Hank was “a real dead-end kid who was always going around with a bloody nose.” ( ...

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Jake Beckley. Goodwin & Co. baseball card, c. 1887–1890. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 13163-05, no. 266).

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Beckley, Jake (04 August 1867–25 June 1918), baseball player, was born Jacob Peter Beckley in Hannibal, Missouri, the son of Bernhardt Beckley, a brick mason, and Rosine Nith. As a youth, Beckley played with the various semipro baseball teams in and around Hannibal. His batting prowess earned him the nickname “Eagle Eye.” His professional career began in 1886 with Leavenworth, Kansas, in the Western League. Bob Hart, a former Hannibal teammate who pitched for Leavenworth, knew the club needed some new players and suggested Beckley, who became the starting second baseman. Beckley had a fine year, hitting well above .300. In 1887 he switched to first base, a position he played for the next twenty years. Early that season his contract was sold to the Lincoln, Nebraska, team where he continued to dominate Western League pitchers, maintaining a season average above .400 at a time when walks were counted as hits....

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Belanger, Mark (08 June 1944–06 October 1998), baseball player and union leader, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the son of Ed Belanger, a factory worker and technician, and Maria Bianchi Belanger. An excellent all-around athlete, Belanger stood out in basketball as well as baseball at Pittsfield High School, once scoring 41 points in a basketball game that gave his school the Western Massachusetts championship in 1962. After being scouted by Frank McGowan and Joe Cusick, he signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent and began his professional career with Bluefield (West Virginia) in the Rookie League. Under the tutelage of manager Billy Hunter, the right handed hitter and thrower averaged .298 at the plate with 3 home runs and 23 runs batted in. In 1963 Belanger entered the Army and served one year, after which he returned to the minor leagues with Aberdeen (South Dakota) in the Northern League. He was named “Rookie of the Year” in 1964 despite only hitting .226. He advanced to Elmira (New York) in the Eastern League the following year and, despite a weak batting average of .229, was named to that league's all-star team....

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Bell, Cool Papa (17 May 1903–07 March 1991), Negro League baseball player, was born James Thomas Bell in Starkville, Mississippi, the son of a farmer; his parents’ names are not known. Because Starkville offered few opportunities for blacks, his mother sent him to live with his sister and four brothers in St. Louis, Missouri, where he attended high school for two years and worked in a packing plant. During this time Bell played semiprofessional baseball; he was “discovered” in 1922 by the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League, against whom Bell pitched. The Stars signed him to a $90-a-month contract....

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Bender, Chief (05 May 1884–22 May 1954), baseball player and manager, was born Charles Albert Bender at Partridge Lake, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, the son of Albertus Bliss Bender and Mary Razor, farmers. His father was of German-American descent, and his mother, whose tribal name was Pay shaw de o quay, was a half-white member of the Mississippi band of the Ojibwa (Chippewa). The family moved to Brainerd, Minnesota, on White Earth Indian Reservation during the 1880s, but at age seven Bender was placed in the Educational Home in Philadelphia, an Episcopal school for white and Indian orphan and destitute children. Although he returned to Minnesota in mid-1896, he soon ran away and enrolled at the Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he played baseball and football under the legendary coach Glenn Warner. After leaving Carlisle in February 1902, he pitched for nearby Dickinson College. That summer he played for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Athletic Club, using the surname Albert to protect his college eligibility. There, he pitched a 3–1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Jess Frisinger, a scout for ...

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Chief Bender. American Tobacco Co. baseball card, c. 1909–1911. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 13163-18, no. 329).

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Black, Joe (08 February 1924–16 May 2005), baseball player, was born Joseph Black in Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of Joseph Black, an auto mechanic, and Martha Black. During the Depression his father was laid off, partly because he was African American, so he found work with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Martha Black cooked and took in laundry to support their six children. In 1935 young Joe became hooked on baseball, especially the Detroit Tigers and their star ...