1952

The Pittsburg Pirates dropped Mayfield in the late fall and the St. Louis Cardinals announced an agreement with the Paducah Chiefs. The Jaycees in Union City said they had enjoyed their adventure into sponsoring organized baseball, but were not interested in doing it again. They returned the franchise to the American Legion per the contract. The venture left them $5000 in the hole.

The Legion quickly let it be known they were not interested in sponsoring the team in 1952. A deadline of January 25, 1952 was set for any local group or organization to indicate interest. If no one came forward the Legion would offer the franchise to out of town parties. The Legion commander signing this decision was Hunter Corum. The committee recommending the action was made up of Andy Anderson, Sam Nailling, Jack Burdick, Guy Jones, and Guy Weldon.

This group along with Jaycee representatives let the league know of Union City's circumstances during the winter meeting at Smith's Cafe in Fulton. The league elected Shelby Peace to a four-year term. Union City was the only doubtful returnee. Roy Vincent told the group Union City had remitted its guarantee fee to the national office and would announce the definite status at the next meeting.

A committee of interested businessmen met to investigate the situation and determine what needed to be done to assure baseball in 1952. They decided it could be done if $7500 could be raised in the community. The committee solicited merchants, businesses, and individual fans. They also held an auction over radio station WENK. The $7500 was raised and the group elected Garland Bennett as president and Roy Vincent, business manager. The vice president was Isadore Rubenstein. The idea of this group was to make baseball a year-around business rather than the seasonal effort that had previously been committed.

The first order of business was the selection of Frank Radler to manage the team. Radler was a 32-year-old pitcher who had previously managed in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania for two years, and most recently in Deland, Florida, where his team won both the league pennant and the playoffs. Spring practice started on April 14.

In other "off season" news, Billy Joe Forrest got word he was to report to the Memphis Chicks spring camp. He did but later returned to Fulton for the bulk of the season. Former Greyhound Bud Hutson was invited to a special batting camp with the Cleveland Indians, the only minor league player so honored. Another attendee at the same camp was Larry Doby, first black player in the American League. Hutson was later reassigned to the Dallas team in the Texas League. He played at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1951 hitting .296, with 117 RBI's, 24 home runs, and voted most valuable player in the league. He was 24 years old.

Fulton changed their name to the Lookouts, in line with their sponsorship with the Chattanooga team. Sam Lamitino signed for another year as manager, as did Ned Waldrop, and Howie Weeks, the hard-hitting outfielder from Pine Bluff.

Ellis Parks and Leonard Hodges started work to get Turner Field in playing condition for the 1952 season. Leonard served as both groundskeeper and batboy for a number of years. In 1952 the new batboy was Robert Hale "Spider" Rives. Spider was 13 years old and took his job very seriously. He not only took special care of the bats and balls, but also was a constant thorn in the backsides of the umpires and the opposing teamís pitchers and batters. On more than one occasion he was quieted by the umpires, threatened by the opposing team, and at least once removed by the umpire from his spot outside the Greyhound dugout.

Puppy tickets went on sale for $3 for all home games and the "puppies" also received a Greyhound tee shirt. Ticket sales were moving better than normal, and were helped with the signing of Paul "Spade" Cooley a local youth from the Lindenwood area. Paul was a left- handed pitcher with good speed and a major league pick off move to first base. He played for about half of the season before receiving his release in spite of good success and considerable talent. His situation was not unlike a number of local players before him, as they were at times used more in hopes of drawing fans than concern about their future in the game.

In an attempt to sell their wares the hawkers yelled to the fans "you can't tell the players without a scorecard. Get your scorecards here." This was never truer than in 1952. The opening day roster included: Jim Cawley, 1b; Jay Stasko, 2b; Billy Joe Young, ss; Curt Englebright, 3b; Dewey Martling, c; outfielders, Dom Serafini, Nick Frankenfield, and Lou Castrovince; infielder, Gordon Hagey; outfielder/pitcher, John Bohna; and pitchers, Junior Cunningham, Paul Cooley, Sherwood Lessig, Joe May, Rudy Lazek, and Bob Fortman. Young was released in the first week of the season and immediately went to Jackson. He was back in Union City by June 1, and shortly after released again. Fortman was released in May, as was Frankenfield. Union City won the opener in a 16-8 victory over Jackson with Paul Cooley getting the win.

Early in May there was a limited agreement reached with the Brooklyn Dodgers to provide some help financially and with player personnel. The team added outfielder Jack Rothenhausler through an outright cash deal with Lakeland, Florida, of the Florida-International League. He became the center of controversy a month or so later when the president of that league wrote to the Greyhounds telling them Rothenhausler had been suspended by his league because of an April altercation with an umpire. The Greyhounds appealed to Shelby Peace, who wrote a scorching letter to Florida telling them nicely to mind their own business. By that time Jack was hitting over .400 for the Greyhounds and was extremely popular with the fans.

Rothenhausler had a previous relationship with manager Frank Radler. Radlerís 1949 Stroudsburg team was one of the best in the history of minor league baseball. Rothenhausler played on the 1949-championship team hitting .377 with 13 home runs and 128 RBIís. He also played for Radler his championship teams in 1948 Stroudsburg and 1951 Deland, Florida.

In another trade the popular and dependable Junior Cunningham was traded to Owensboro for hard hitting J. T. Jaynes, an outfielder/first baseman. This deal would ultimately earn another release for Jim Cawley. Iron man Art Cook reported to the team as soon as his school was out for the summer. Some of the first Dodger help came from the signing of Jim Werkheiser as shortstop, and Lloyd Woodling, a pitcher both from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They also sent in a catcher from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, named Sabastian Salemi. He became known to the local fans as Sibby Salem, before he was lost to the draft and returned home for induction. Werkheiser was drafted about the same time.

Despite the shuffling of players the end of May found Union City in sixth place at 12-13, while Fulton was leading the league at 13-8. Howie Weeks of Fulton was batting .492, and Union City's Rothenhausler and Jaynes were swinging for .389 and .333, respectively.

On June 10, 1952, a group of businessmen led by J. H. "Buck" Ozment of Dyersburg announced the purchase of the Jackson franchise and its imminent move to Dyersburg. The initial game was scheduled for Burnham Field in Dyersburg, and would be the first organized baseball game since Doc Protho managed the 1923's team. Jackson was 20-17 at the time and holding down third place. However fans were not turning out for the games and financial stress was showing. Before the move could take place the Jackson stockholders voted against ratifying the contract signed with the Dyersburg group, and Hiriam Hopper of Jackson purchased the club for $7800 with the agreement to keep it in Jackson. The Dyersburg group said "we do not plan to seek an injunction to force the sale, but we will protest every game they play." Shelby Peace ruled in favor of the new Jackson owner and Dyersburg missed their last best chance for a Kitty League membership.

Union City was also having financial problems due to poor gate attendance. In 27 home games the team was averaging only 270 adult admissions per game and the total gate attendance was only 7676 "including children, as well as colored fans". The lowest paid attendance was 42 for a particularly cold night. The end of June found the Greyhounds in sixth place, and without the services of third baseman Curt Englebright, who placed himself on the voluntary retired list. Chico Cortez joined the team as a shortstop, but switched to third after Englebright retired and Werkheiser was drafted. Walt Dziedzic came in late June as a catcher/outfielder and played great ball for the remainder of the season, hitting .326 and six home runs. Only four players starting the season were still on the team at the end of June-Martling, Bohna, Lessig, and Stasko.

Fulton hosted the all-star game again and beat the leagues best by a 4-2 score. Jay Stasko and Jack Rothenhausler represented Union City. The Greyhounds were on a seven game winning streak and moved into fourth place by the July 16 game. However attendance was still down and the team was going further into the red. It appeared they would not be able to finish the season. A radio auction of donated articles raised $1800 to meet the payroll and additional donations raised the funds to $3500, and brought new interest to holding on to the club.

There was a contest held to have fans name their all-time favorite Greyhound team. Actually it was the all time favorite team since restarting the league in 1946. The 1948 team dominated the fan choice with eight selections. Winners were outfielders, Bud Hutson, Jack Rothenhausler, and John Bohna: 1b, Bud Pfeiffer; 2b, Jay Stasko; ss, Billy Joe Forrest; 3b, Don Petschow; Les Filkins, c; pitchers, Charley Simpson, Dutch Neuman, Art Cook, Joe Linn, and Junior Cunningham. The manager was Tony Rensa.

Although Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues in 1946, it was not broken in the Kitty League until Mayfield signed Mickey Stubblefield in mid summer 1952. The reason generally given for not including black players in the league was because "there were no proper facilities available". These were days when there were still separate drinking fountains, rest rooms, and eating facilities. Blacks could not stay in the same hotels as the other players, nor could white players be expected to necessarily use the same dressing rooms and showers. In deed "separate, but equal" was the law of the land. As a consequence Stubblefield only accompanied the Clothiers on road trips when the home team agreed. He beat Union City 3-0 in Mayfield and the UC club management wanted him to travel to Union City to pitch the next week because they thought he would be a draw. Eight hundred fans turned out to see the Greyhounds beat him 8-5. For most of the 800 it was the first time they had seen a "Negro" play against white boys. Probably more than 800 stayed away because they did not approve of the mixing of the races on the diamond. Mickey Stubblefield was the only black player to play in the Kitty League until the 1955 league-ending season. There was an understanding the next year that there would be no black players assigned to any Kitty League franchise by the major league teams, because "facilities were not available to accommodate them".

Late in the season Union City had employed 47 different players. However they had played steadily improving ball with the same 15 players from early July. One of them, shortstop Bob Carlson made the record books when he committed seven errors in one game. Despite this dubious honor Carlson was a success at shortstop. Injuries caused Radler to use all his managerial skills as he played catchers in the outfield, pitchers at first base and regularly rotated John Bohna as a pitcher/outfielder. He responded by hitting .296, nine home runs, 51 RBIís and an 11-6 pitching record.

Two hundred forty-seven players passed through the league in 1952. Fulton made it with only 19. Most of them were veteran players.

Club management continued to use any gimmick to draw fans. Admission was dropped back to $.50 and one game enjoined fans to come out and see local businessman A. J. Stephens throw out the first pitch wearing the largest pair of overalls ever made-a size 66.

The final standings were Fulton, 72-37 for a winning percentage of .689 and just missing the all time minor league record. Paducah, Madisonville, and Union City rounded out the first division teams, and Owensboro, Hopkinsville, Jackson, and Mayfield finished in that order. While the team finished the season officially in fourth place, with 5 games to go they were holding down second. Fulton ran away with first place but the next three teams were in a tight race.

Neither Union City, Madisonville, nor Paducah wanted to finish in the number four spot because it meant a playoff against Sam Lamintoís group. Also that year the playoffs were made best three of five. Radlerís team won the first, third and fifth games in the initial meeting, with Art Cook winning two of the games. Attendance for the final game was 1500 and the 10-mile road between Union City and Fulton was hot for the entire series.

Madisonville beat Paducah three games to one, before closing out Union City three games to none. The biggy was beating Fulton and the season successful enough to keep the Dodgers interested in Union City as a farm club.

The players ending the season and as it turned out, the last Greyhounds, were J. T. Jaynes, Jack Rothenhausler, Jay Stasko, Bob Carlson, Hermineo "Chico" Cortez, John Bohna, Walt Dziedzic, Art Cook, Lloyd Woodling, Sherwood "Lefty" Lessig, Ed Knapp, Bill Oefinger, Dick Coffman, Dewey Martling, and Manager Frank Radler. Radler also became a new father that summer when his wife gave birth to a baby girl.