Friday, August 21, 2009

1939 Play Ball #37 Virgil Lawrence Davis

I’m starting to notice a trend here with the pre-1950s Phillies baseball cards I’ve added to my collection. Players of the ‘30s and ‘40s had much cooler nicknames than what we get today. So far I’ve featured Dutch and Pinky, and this post will show off Spud. (We like names like Wily Mo and Jo Jo, but it's not the same.)

Virgil “Spud” Davis spent 16 seasons in the Majors with the Cardinals (1928 and 1934-1936 as a member of the Gashouse Gang), Phillies (1928-1933 and 1938-1939), Reds (1937-1938) and the Pirates (1940-1941 and 1944-1945). He was the Phils’ starting catcher through most of the decade of the ‘30s. A career .308 hitter, Spud finished in the top 10 of the National League batting average leaders in 1931, 1932 and 1933 – finishing second to teammate Chuck Klein for the ’33 batting title. His career average is currently good enough for 118th on the all-time list. Not bad for a catcher nicknamed Spud. (I love the origin of his nickname, as told by the back of this card.)

Following his playing career, Spud served as an interim manager for the Pirates for 3 games in 1946 and he coached with the Cubs from 1950 to 1953. Spud passed away in 1984 in the city where he was born, Birmingham, Alabama.

Still Not as Interesting as Rob Ducey: But interesting nevertheless, Spud was traded twice for the same player – fellow catcher Jimmie Wilson. In May 1928, the Cardinals traded Spud to the Phillies for Wilson. Five and half years later, in November 1933, the two teams swapped catchers again with Spud going back to his original team.

All-Time Best Catcher?: Spud is included in the 1986 TCMA All-Time Phillies Greats set (a set currently on my wantlist) as the franchise’s best catcher. Bob Boone couldn’t be reached for comment for this post.

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