Tag Archives: College Baseball

Before Pete Gray

6 Aug

Pitcher Hugh Daily in the 1890s and outfielder Pete Gray in the 1940s are the only two men to play major league baseball with one arm, but they are not the only two to play professionally.

Hugh Daily

Hugh Daily

Twenty-five years before Pete Gray made his debut with Trois-Rivers in the Canadian-American League another outfielder who lost an arm to a childhood accident played professional baseball.

William P. “Bill” White was born in 1891 in Grantville, Georgia, and lost his right arm to a gun accident at age 13.  White played baseball and football at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

After college, White played for the 1917 Anniston Moulders in the Georgia-Alabama League.  While Baseball-Reference does not note White’s time at Anniston, showing only 2 players on the roster (Guy Lacy and Johnny Morrison), White’s time with the team is detailed in contemporary newspapers.

William P. “Bill” White

There are no official statistics available for White’s performance.  Some newspaper accounts labeled him “A fair hitter,” while other, much later accounts said, “His batting average was well above the .300 mark.”

After his year at Anniston, White played semi-pro ball and umpired until being named head coach at the University of Georgia in 1921.  White managed the Bulldogs until 1933 compiling a 224-100-7 record and was named conference coach of the year in 1933.  White also managed the ColumbusFoxes in the Southeastern League from 1928-1930.

White went to work for the Georgia Secretary of State and ran unsuccessfully for office in 1940, but maintained his interest in baseball.

In 1937 White put together a “One-armed baseball team” which played about 100 games with semi-pro teams around the south.  With the exception of the catcher, third baseman, and first baseman, White’s team was made up of players with one arm.  The pitcher, Orville Paul was said by Branch Rickey to be good enough to win in any Class A league.

White died in Rome, Georgia on January 22, 1947.

While neither played pro ball, two other players with one arm made headlines playing college baseball between 1910 and 1920.  Outfielders Dick Hooper of Texas and Eddie Ash of Wabash were both highly touted players, but neither made the jump to pro ball.

Eddie Ash

Dick Hooper

Baseball’s First Chinese Player

30 Jul

Vernon L. Ayau’s professional career lasted less than half of one season, but in the process, he became the first Chinese player in professional baseball and his signing nearly broke up a league.

Ayau, born January 31, 1894, in Maui, Hawaii, played on the Chinese University of Hawaii team that toured the US in 1913, 14 and 15.  He was said to have caught the eye many in professional baseball including New York Giants manager John McGraw.

Chinese University Team

Ayau was described as a slick fielding shortstop with an excellent arm, but a weak hitter.  In December of 1916, he was offered a contract by Bill Leard, manager of the Seattle Giants in the Northwestern League.  Leard played against Ayau when he went to Hawaii after the 1916 season with an all-star team put together by former Northwestern and Pacific Coast League player Charles “Cy” Swain.

Within weeks, Northwest League players passed a petition expressing their displeasure with the signing, and newspapers in league cities came out strongly against Ayau.

Anti-Chinese sentiment was especially strong in areas where Chinese workers were being hired as miners, and mining unions in Butte and Great Falls (two league cities) threatened to “take action to have (Ayau) removed from the league.”  Shortly before the signing, a Chinese mine worker had been dropped from a bridge into the Missouri River by members of the miners union.

Leard received death threats but along with Seattle’s ownership held his ground and Ayau was on Seattle’s opening day roster.

His time with Seattle only lasted until May 20 when Leard announced his release.  Despite the early threats of boycotts and other action, he was actually signed and released by Tacoma and later Vancouver in the Northwest League over the next six weeks.

By July 1917, Ayau’s career in professional baseball was over.  He hit only .203 in 133 at bats with the three teams.  Contemporary news reports noted his weak hitting but universally praised his glove and arm.  That month he joined a semi-pro team in Wildwood, NJ that also included his former Chinese University teammate Lee Tin.

After serving in the US Army as a member of the infantry in France, Ayau returned to New Jersey where he continued to play semi-pro ball for several years.

He died in Penns Grove, New Jersey on March 28, 1976.