Monday, April 23, 2012

Roy Hawes' belated rookie card

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.


One of the oddities among mid-1950s mainstream baseball cards was the 1955 Bowman card of  Roy Hawes.


Hawes' rookie card, you see, came nearly four years after the end of his major league career -- a career that comprised only three games.


Despite what the back of his Bowman card says, Hawes was born in Shiloh, Illinois, not Texas. 


He began playing pro ball at the age of 20 in the Class D Illinois State League. He spent four years in D ball, all as a first baseman. In 1950 with Vincennes in the Mississippi Ohio Valley League he hit .328 (sixth best in the league) with 13 home runs (fourth best). That earned him a promotion to Class B ball in 1951 at Sherman-Dennison in the Big State League. 


After hitting .311 with 17 home runs in Texas, he was sold to the Washington Senators, who were looking for a left-handed power hitter to back up Mickey Vernon at first base.


Hawes made his major league debut in the first game of a Sept. 23 doubleheader at Philadelphia. 


The Senators were already behind 6-0 in the top of the third when Hawes went in as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Connie Marrero. After taking the first pitch and missing the second, Hawes hit a single up the middle off a Bob Hooper knuckleball for his only major league career hit. He was forced out at second on a double play and the Senators lost 12-4.


Hawes was called upon in the second game as a pinch-hitter for Tom Ferrick. He lined out to pitcher Carl Scheib in the top of the ninth to end the game in an 8-3 Senators' loss. 


His only major league start came on the last game of the season, the second game of a doubleheader in Washington on Sept. 30, when he again faced Bob Hooper. Hawes went 0-for-4 as the Senators ended their season with a 4-3 loss to finish seventh in the American League, 36 games behind the Yankees. It was end of Hawes' time in the big leagues.


For 1952, the Senators sent Hawes to their Class AA Southern Association team at Chattanooga to convert him to an outfielder. He spent the 1952-55 seasons at Chattanooga, batting around .270 and averaging about 17 home runs a season.


He hung on for five more years playing AA and AAA ball in the Senators, Phiilies, Tigers, Braves and Dodgers systems. Someone was always willing to take a chance on a big (6'2") left-handed hitting outfielder. His batting average was usually closer to .200 than .250, and he never hit more than nine home runs until he returned to Chattanooga in 1958.


Back with the Lookouts in 1959-60, Hawes ended his pro playing days on a high note. He batted .265 with 31 home runs before retiring at the age of 33.


Throughout his playing days around the minors, Hawes' name would occasionally pop up in the pages of The Sporting News


In 1952, for instance, the paper reported that Hawes had been slightly injured in a robbery attempt on May 23. The Lookouts first baseman had been parked in the street in front of his girlfriend's house after a date when a would-be bandit jerked open the car door, and slashed at Hawes with what the paper called, "a sharp instrument."


Hawes said he punched the robber in the face when he reached for his wallet and chased him down the street.


The ballplayer got nicked twice in the incident: Once when the assailant slashed at him, and the second time when Lookouts manager Cal Ermer fined him for being out past 1 a.m. following a night game. 


The next night Hawes hit two doubles and three RBIs in a 7-3 win over New Orleans.


Later that season Hawes was written up in TSN on the occasion of his marriage. 


On the afternoon of Aug. 9, Hawes married Jeanie Baxter (one would hope the same girl whose house he had been in front of at 1 a.m. two months earlier) in her hometown of Ringgold, Ga. (only about 15 miles south of the ballpark). 


Hawes returned to Chattanooga later that day for a nighttime doubleheader against New Orleans. In the first game he hit a 10th inning, three-run home run to win 4-2.  Between games the crowd took up a collection for the newlyweds and presented them with around $200, while local merchants phoned in offers of wedding presents. The home run was only Hawes' second hit in a 33 at-bat slump. He went hitless in the second game.


While Hawes has the illustrated 1955 Bowman high-number to show for his three-game major league career, his 14 seasons in the minors apparently yielded no other cards.







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