Tag Archives: Greensboro Patriots

Submarine Gheen

10 May

Born August 13, 1899, Thomas Whistler Gheen made a name for himself pitching for the amateur team in his hometown of Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1919 and 1920. The Charlotte Observer said Gheen was:

“(B)elieved by many to be the best pitching prospect in the Carolinas.”

He was called “Submarine” Gheen, for what The Charlotte News called his “Far-famed underhand delivery.”

 

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Tom Gheen, 1919

 

Late in the 1920 season, Gheen was signed by the Charleston Palmettos of the South Atlantic League.  Gheen appeared in six games and posted a 2-4 record with a 2.06 ERA for the last-place (54-71) Palmettos.

He began the 1921 season in Lincolnton but was signed by the Charlotte Hornets after he pitched a perfect game against the Loray Mills team in Gastonia, North Carolina.  He struck out 21 batters.  The Charlotte Observer said:

“Not a Loray man reached first.  Persons who saw the game say it was the most remarkable bit of hurling ever seen in Gaston County.”

In June, The Observer said he was:

“(F)ast developing into one of the best twirlers on the staff.”

Despite his promise, Gheen seemed to be troubled.  When he was playing amateur ball for Lincolnton, The Observer noted after he had been used as a pinch hitter:

“Most of Gheen’s hitting is done in the clubhouse.”

The High Point Enterprise said of Gheen:

“The blond-haired boxman never had a serious thought in his life and is dizzy as a southpaw off the field.”

With a 5-9 record and 3.22 ERA in late July, Gheen jumped the team.  According to The Durham Morning Herald:

“His excuse was that the fans razzed him to excess.  He declared that the razzing so affected his pitching it was impossible to win.”

The Charlotte Observer suggested he jumped for another reason:

“(He) quit the club following rumors circulated by gamblers that he had ‘thrown’ a ball game.”

The Morning Herald called him a “Wonderful pitcher,” and said he was “almost unbeatable when his underhanded ball in breaking properly.”

Charlotte catcher Pat Carroll came to Gheen’s defense, telling The Observer that the other catchers on the club did not encourage the pitcher to use his submarine delivery often enough:

“They can’t hit that ball to save their lives.  I ordered it every time Gheen got in the hole and it was pitiful to see the batter try to connect.  It didn’t help them a bit to know what was coming.  They couldn’t hit the ball; that’s all there was to it.”

The Hornets, according to The Charlotte News granted the “recalcitrant hurler” his wish and sold the “erratic heaver” to the Winston-Salem Twins of the Piedmont League.

 

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Gheen (5 top right) with the Winston-Salem Twins, 1921

 

Gheen was 11-3 in 15 games for the 62-58 Twins, and big things were expected of him in 1922.

He rose to the occasion on Opening Day, April 26.

The Observer buried the lede:

“Submarine Gheen made himself famous in the opening game of the Piedmont League season…his opponents being the Greensboro Patriots, who were defeated 5 to 0.

“Only 27 men faced the Twin moundsman who did not yield a hit nor issue a free pass.”

It was his only victory for Winston-Salem.  Less than a month after his perfect game Gheen was suspended indefinitely by manager Charles Clancy for “insubordination.”

Gheen was reinstated 10 days later but was sold to the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League less than a week later. He was 1-5 for the Twins.

Gheen was plagued by wildness in Texas, posting a 6-11 record with a 4.06 ERA.

He was traded to Galveston Sandcrabs at the end of the Texas League season but was sold the following spring to the Rocky Mount Tar Heels in the Virginia League.  The 1923 season appears to have been controversy free for Gheen; he was 13-11 with a 3.43 ERA.

Back in the Piedmont League in 1924, Gheen was on his way to a 14-10 season for the High Point Pointers, when, on September 12, he made headlines off the field after he killed a man.

Gheen was riding in a car with friends near New Bern, North Carolina when they came upon a man lying in the road.  The High Point Enterprise said, the car, driven by Gheen’s friend:

“(S)werved to avoid hitting a negro lying prone across the road.  The driver of the car…backed up to see what was the trouble.

“As the car was being backed up one of the party yelled, ‘look out, he’s got a gun.’  Gheen, riding in the front seat, reached in the side pocket of the car and secured a revolver.  As the Negro came running alongside the car, revolver in hand, Gheen yelled, ‘Throw up your hands.’ This the Negro refused to do and Gheen fired three shots penetrating the upper part of the Negro’s body.  He died almost instantly.”

Gheen and his friends were cleared of any wrongdoing the following day.

The paper did not identify the dead man and said:

“He was said to have been a desperate character and to have had a police record.”

Gheen played two more seasons of professional baseball; he was 9-8 for the Columbia Comers in the South Atlantic League in 1925.

He joined the Jacksonville Tars of the Southeastern League in 1926—he won eight of his first 10 decisions with the club but was also arrested for the alleged assault of a woman when playing the Albany (GA) Nuts.  He appears to have avoided prosecution gheen1919but went 3-6 the rest of the season and his career as a professional ballplayer was over at age 28.

The following year, while back in his hometown of Lincolnton, “Submarine” Gheen, was killed when the Ford Touring car he was driving turned over on July 3.  The man who was considered the “best pitching prospect in the Carolinas” six years earlier died at the age of 29 on July 4, 1927.

Brief Bios–Ferris and Angier

24 Oct

Doc Ferris

Ernest H. “Doc” Ferris won 20 games twice over eight seasons in the low manors between 1913 and 1923, and posted a respectable 109-86 record.  The otherwise forgotten right-hander also pitched one of the most efficient games in baseball history.

Ferris was born on September 7, 1887 in Blue Ash, Ohio; the youngest of 13 children.  There is little information about his early life on his father Solomon’s farm, with the exception of a few brief mentions in Cincinnati newspapers of his being active in the Hamilton County Ohio Farmer’s Alliance.

The first reference to him related to baseball was when the 25-year-old signed a contract with the Durham Bulls of the North Carolina State League in 1913.  After two sub .500 seasons –10-12 in 1913, 9-16 with the Asheville Tourists—he had his best season in 1915, when he won 27 games (he lost 12) for Asheville.

Ernest "Doc" Ferris

Ernest “Doc” Ferris

In 1916 he was signed by the Columbia Comers of the South Atlantic League.  The Highlight of Ferris’ 18-15 season was during a 3 to 1 victory over the Albany Babies on July 18.  The Columbia State said:

“Doc Ferris probably made a new record for the league by going through the game with only 73 pitched balls, 14 of which were balls and 59 strikes…the Columbus pitcher did not issue a pass…Ferris set up a record that will probably stand for many moons.  To go through nine innings pitching only 73 balls is a remarkable feat.  The smiling hurler was seldom in the hole, going to three balls on only one batter.”

The game was completed in 78 minutes.

The Box Score

The Box Score

(Charles “Red” Barrett of the Boston Braves set the major league record for fewest pitches in a game, when he shut out the Cincinnati Reds 2-0 in Crosley Field on August 10, 1944–he threw just 58 pitches–Barrett’s game was also three minutes shorter than Ferris’ effort.)

After pitching for and managing the Asheville Tourists and Hagerstown Terriers in 1917 and 1918, Ferris quit baseball for two years, and according to The Durham Morning Herald accepted “a responsible position with a manufacturing concern.”

In 1921 he returned to the diamond, pitching three seasons for the Greensboro Patriots in the Piedmont League—after going 20-9 in his first season, he slipped to 6-9 and 4-5, before retiring for good after the 1923 season.

After baseball Ferris operated a company that manufactured and installed canvas awnings.  When he started the business he told The Greensboro Daly News:

“During the eight years I sweated in the blazing sun, I often thought of the advantage it would be to have and awning overhead, so when I finally decided to quit the diamond I naturally gravitated into selling the things that looked so attractive to me while I was pitching.”

Doc Ferris

Doc Ferris

Ferris died in Greensboro on November 11, 1964.

Shorty Angier

Malbourne Addison “Shorty” Angier was a teammate of Doc Ferris with the Durham Bulls in 1913.   Angier was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1892, but grew up in Durham. His grandfather, and namesake, was a prominent Durham merchant.

Angier made a name for him himself as a teen in the Piedmont League—before 1920 various quasi-professional/industrial league incarnations of the Piedmont operated; he played for Durham Hosiery in 1911 and 1912.

When he was signed by the Durham Bulls in 1913, The Charlotte Evening Chronicle said he “hit around .400 in the Piedmont League last year,” and had turned down offers from two other North Carolina State League teams, the Charlotte Hornets and Greensboro Patriots.  The expectations were high:

“Those that have seen Angier play predict that he will make good in the league and that the next few years will see him in the big company.”

The Charlotte Observer described his physical appearance:

“(S)tocky torso, the hefty underpinning, and abbreviated neck.”

Whatever ability he had with the bat in the Piedmont League left him as a professional.  Angier hit just .199 during his first season at Durham in 1913.  After a hot start the following season—he was hitting nearly .400 in July—he finished with a .268 average.  In 1915 he hit .175.

Although a weak hitter, he  was one of the best athletes in the North Carolina League—during the league’s “Field Day” activities in 1914 The Charlotte News said he “easily won” the distance throwing competition and his 15 and 1/5 second time circling the bases was the league’s best.

He split the 1916 season between the South Atlantic League Columbia Comers (where he was again teammates with Doc Ferris) and Jacksonville Tarpons; he hit a combined .175 for the year.

The following spring The Durham Morning Herald reported that Angier was in a local hospital in critical condition after “the young man swallowed poison.”

The Greensboro Daily News said Angier drank from a bottle that he was not aware contained “poisonous medicine,” but the paper said “attempted suicide was discounted,” by his friends.

Whether the poisoning was a contributing factor or not, Angier did not play in 1917, and went to work at a tobacco store he co-owned in Durham.

After volunteering for military service in the fall of 1917—he was a second Lieutenant in the cavalry, stationed in Columbia, South Carolina—he returned to his business in Durham.

Each season from 1919 through 1921, North Carolina newspapers reported that Angier would be joining the Durham Bulls; although he does not appear in any surviving team records, Angier played in a handful of games for the team in September of 1921.

He never played again after his brief return to the diamond in 1921.  Angier owned several tobacco and grocery businesses in and around Durham and later relocated to Green Cove Springs, Florida where he died in 1937.

Advertisement for Angier's cigar store

Advertisement for Angier’s cigar store