Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Near the birthplace of "The Rope"

My Fourth of July holiday was spent in Holly Springs, Mississippi; 38 miles east of Memphis, Tennessee on Highway 78.  Holly Springs is also three miles from Potts Camp, Mississippi; birthplace of the Negro League baseball hitting machine of the late 1940’s, Bob “The Rope” Boyd.  Born October 1, 1919, Boyd hit over .330 in his four seasons with the Memphis Red Sox (1946 – 1949).  The 5’9’’, 168 pound left hand hitting first baseman played in three Negro League East West All Star games, getting two hits in the 1948 contest.
In 1950, he became the first African-American player signed by the Chicago White Sox.  Although Boyd hit over .300 throughout the team’s minor league system, he was never able to get a permanent spot on their Major League roster.  In five years, 1950 – 1954, Boyd played in only 96 White Sox games.

However, beginning in 1956, Major League baseball fans got to witness the hitting skills of Bob Boyd when he was 36 years old playing with the Baltimore Orioles.  During four of the next five seasons, 1956 – 1960, Boyd hit over .300.  His nickname, “The Rope”, did not come when he played Negro League baseball; but from his white Oriole teammates based on the line drives they saw Boyd consistently hit when batting.  In 1956, Boyd (.311) and teammate Bob Nieman (.322) were the first Orioles in franchise history with over 100 at bats to hit .300.  In 1957, Boyd’s .318 batting average was 4th highest in the American League behind Hall of Fame sluggers Ted Williams (.388) and Mickey Mantle (.365); and Gene Woodling (.321).
Boyd had a ten year (1951 – 1961) Major League career batting average of .293