Whitlow Wyatt already had strong ties to Atlanta baseball when he arrived with the Braves for the 1966 season as the team’s pitching coach. The native Georgian was a short-stint collegian at Georgia Tech before starting his professional baseball career in 1927 and later serving as pitching coach for the city’s standout Class AA Southern Association franchise, the Crackers, five years after he threw his last major-league pitch. By 1954 he was managing the Crackers to the Southern Association regular season title, a pair of playoff series wins, and a Dixie Series championship--a “grand slam” the proud franchise had accomplished only once before. Truly, the combative right hander, once the toast of Brooklyn, was back home.
Wyatt spent nine seasons toiling ineffectively with an often-ailing arm for three American League teams before a breakout “do or die” minor-league season in Milwaukee (American Association) at age 30 landed him in the National League with the Brooklyn Dodgers. There, he blossomed through five seasons, was slowed by arm woes in a sixth, and was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he wrapped up his pitching career in 1945. He returned to Haralson County, Georgia, and farmed for four years until he answered baseball’s call again, coaching and managing the Crackers. Returning to the majors, he spent 11 seasons as a pitching coach with the Phillies and Milwaukee Braves before the franchise move brought major-league baseball to the South.
When Wyatt joined the Braves in 1958, he took over a World Series-champion pitching staff and guided its return to the Fall Classic, where he himself had pitched in 1941. He worked under six managers in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, and his staffs, anchored by Robin Roberts in Philadelphia and Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette in Milwaukee, produced nine 20-game winners.1
John Whitlow (“Whit”) Wyatt was born September 27, 1907, in Kensington, Walker County, Georgia.2 Of English ancestry, he was the second son and second of five children born to James Colquitt (J. C.) and Lela (Leila) Whitlow Wyatt, a descendant of Walker County pioneers.3 J. C. Wyatt was an engineer with the Central Railroad of Georgia. Lela kept house and tended to the children, Jack, Whitlow, Harold, Eleanor, and Virginia. By 1920, the family had moved to Chickamauga, a neighboring community in Walker County. They moved again in 1925, three counties south, to Cedartown in Polk County.
Wyatt finished his final two years of high school in Cedartown. At 6’ 1”, 185, he excelled as a football fullback and anchored the Cedartown High baseball team as a first baseman and occasional pitcher. Even before Wyatt graduated in 1927, he and his brother Jack were playing semipro baseball with the Richmond Hosiery Mills team in the Chattanooga City League. Back at Cedartown High, he attracted attention from Eddie Goosetree, a Detroit Tigers scout, and, as fortune seems to so often dictate, was signed in preference to the player the scout came to see.4
Georgia Tech had offered Wyatt a football scholarship, but the Tigers were so intent that their players abstain from the gridiron that they offered to pay his tuition on top of his $3,000 contract. Wyatt went to Tech briefly but, eager to start his baseball career, soon reported to the Evansville (Indiana) Hubs of the Class B Three-I League. Evansville was happy to have his rising fastball, as Wyatt won 36 games while losing 18 in 478 innings of work over the 1928 and 1929 seasons.
The Tigers, sliding toward an ultimate sixth-place AL finish, extended a September 1929 call-up to the 21-year-old Wyatt. His debut at Washington on September 16 was inauspicious – eight runs allowed in four innings during a starting assignment, although he escaped the loss. He started three more games and improved somewhat, but ended 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
Wyatt made the 1930 Tigers’ Opening Day roster and notched his first major-league win in his second start of the season. He beat the St. Louis Browns, 4-2, at Detroit’s Navin Field with a complete-game 10-hitter in the second game of a doubleheader on May 16. Used sparingly over the rest of 1930, he finished 4-5, and despite a winter of rest, by April 1931, The Sporting News reported ominously: “The Georgia boy is having trouble with his arm. He thought it was fine when he reported, but as soon as he was called upon to pitch he found he was wrong. His arm was not sore but weak. The Detroit coaches are seriously concerned.”5
Wyatt requested an opportunity to work out his arm in hot weather. The Tigers sent him to the Beaumont Exporters of the Class A Texas League, and he responded nicely with 131 innings in 16 starts, an 11-2 record, and a 1.51 ERA. He rebounded in 1932 with his best American League season as Detroit’s No. 3 starter, pitching 205 2/3 innings, finishing 9-13 for the fifth-place club, and turning in a 5.03 ERA against a league-average 4.48.6
With Wyatt having established value off his 1932 season, the Tigers traded him to the Chicago White Sox on June 2, 1933, for Vic Frazier, right-handed pitcher three years older than Wyatt with a similar track record. Used mainly in relief, Wyatt was 11-18 over parts of four seasons with Chicago and underwent arm surgery that ended his 1934 season after a July 18 start in which he faced six Boston Red Sox batters and failed to record an out. Chicago declined to reserve the now 29-year-old after the 1936 season, and he was drafted by Cleveland. Although he collected the same $4,500 contract Chicago had paid him the previous season, Wyatt pitched only 73 innings in 29 appearances and was a non-factor for the fourth-place 1937 Indians, which featured Mel Harder and 18-year-old rookie Bob Feller.7
Wyatt met Edna White, a dramatics teacher at Buchanan (Georgia) High School, on a blind date in the fall of 1932 and they married on February 4, 1933. The couple acquired a 700-acre farm 55 miles west of Atlanta near Buchanan, Haralson County, in 1937. During Wyatt’s baseball days, tenant families tended the Wyatts’ herd of Hereford cattle and flock of pure-bred sheep. Whitlow and Edna spent the offseasons in Buchanan, and by 1938 had an expansive custom-built home across the street from Edna’s parents.
During the 1937-38 offseason Wyatt was comfortable in Buchanan with Edna, hard work on the farm, and the prospect of a new in-town home. He saw his baseball career differently. “I wasn’t going anyplace. I wasn’t making progress. I thought, well, I’ll just give up; I’ll just stay home and farm.”8
A call from Henry Bendinger, president of the American Association Milwaukee Brewers, changed everything. Milwaukee had a close working arrangement with the Indians. They had worked out a deal to send the Brewers’ 20-year-old phenom, third baseman Ken Keltner, to Cleveland for six players and $25,000. Wyatt was one of the six, and although Wyatt had already notified Milwaukee management he didn’t want to report for 1938, Bendinger called with a personal invitation to spring training, offering to pay Wyatt’s return expenses if he didn’t want to stay after a week. “I told [Edna], well, I’ll go out because I’d like to go to Hot Springs anyhow; I’ll go out there and see,” Wyatt recalled in the Smith interview. “So I went out there and I liked it. Of course, I wanted to play, really.”
Still questioning his arm, Wyatt turned down an incentives contract that would have provided him with a percentage of any sale price to a major-league team and signed a straight-up deal. He remembered “working harder than ever” on his curve ball that spring under the tutelage of manager Al Sothoron. “Suddenly it came to me,” he recalled. “From that time on I could throw the hook at three and two with as much confidence as I could my fastball. No longer were the hitters able to dig in up there and guess on me.”9 He ended up leading the American Association in starts (32), innings pitched (254), and wins (23, against 7 losses), and his 2.37 ERA topped all but two pitchers with significantly fewer innings. Wyatt and Ollie Bejma, St. Paul second baseman, tied for the 1938 Sporting News American Association MVP award.10
Wyatt paid tribute to Sothoron in a 1954 interview with Sam Levy of the Milwaukee Journal: “He made me a big leaguer after three American League clubs had tabbed me a failure. He told me when I joined the Brewers in the spring of 1938, ‘Whit, all you need is one more pitch to go with speed and a curve and you’ll go back to the majors.’ Then he showed me how to throw a slow curve.”11
Sothoron’s prediction proved true as Dodgers’ executive Larry MacPhail, following Wyatt’s progress in Milwaukee through his ace bird dog Ted McGrew, acquired rights to the righty for the Dodgers in midseason (July 11, 1938), but with Brooklyn in sixth place enroute to finishing seventh in the National League, allowed him to continue his standout American Association season.
The new scenery was a tonic for the now-31-year-old Wyatt and of mutual benefit to the second-division Dodgers. After getting a no-decision in his first start of the season in a game at Philadelphia in which he pitched 10 innings, Wyatt got the victory in each of his next three appearances, one of which was in relief. On June 26, he went 16 innings against the Boston Bees but did not get a decision; the game was halted due to darkness after 22 innings with the teams tied 2-2.12 He badly injured his knee in a collision at first base in a game against the Reds on July 19 and didn’t pitch again the rest of the season. Still, he was 8-3 in 16 starts, was named to the first of four consecutive NL All-Star teams, and helped lift Brooklyn to a respectable third place. The Dodgers moved up a notch to second in 1940 with the help of Wyatt’s 15-14 record and league-leading five shutouts.
The momentum peaked in 1941. Wyatt’s 22 wins against 10 losses topped the National League and paced Brooklyn to the pennant and a cross-borough World Series against the Yankees.13 He was third, behind teammates Dolph Camilli and Pete Reiser, in the 1941 National League MVP vote.
On October 2, 1941, Wyatt pitched what he recalled as the highlight of his career. His 3-2 complete-game win in Game Two at Yankee Stadium snapped the Yankees’ ten-game World Series winning streak extending back to Game Five in 1937. “I was proud of that game. They had all those hitters and had won all those consecutive games in the World Series, and I beat them,” he remembered in the Smith interview.
With the Dodgers on the verge of elimination, Wyatt came back with another strong effort in Game Five but was bested, 3-1, as Brooklyn managed only four hits. One of them was Wyatt’s third-inning double that led to the Dodgers’ only run.14
Wyatt returned home to a rousing “local hero” celebration jointly sponsored by Buchanan and Cedartown in late October, covered for The Sporting News by Ernie Harwell, then sports editor for radio station WSB in Atlanta. The Game Two winner told Harwell that he found “farming more fun than hunting,” and attributed hard work on the farm during the 1937-38 offseason for preparing him both mentally and physically for the Milwaukee season that turned his career around.
Wyatt had an $11,000 contract in 1941 and, buoyed by his success and holding a 2-C farm work military deferment, held out for more in 1942. After demanding $20,000, described by Larry MacPhail as “exorbitant” and a ploy to avoid spring training in Havana, Wyatt settled for an increase to $17,500 without bonus clauses.
The Dodgers won even more games in 1942 than they had in ’41 but slipped to second place. Wyatt contributed a 19-7 record in 30 starts and was once again steady against wartime opposition at 14-5 in 1943. By 1944, Wyatt was 36 and problems with his well-traveled arm limited him to 37 2/3 innings as Brooklyn tumbled to seventh place. Although he would later be named to Marty Adler’s Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame, he was excess baggage in the spring of 1945, even for a second-division club. His contract was sold to league rival Philadelphia, where he failed to win in ten starts, the last one on July 18, and finished 0-7. He retired following the season.
After his travail in the American League, Wyatt had won 80 games for Brooklyn, “most of them big ones,” according to Robert Creamer in Baseball In ’41. Over 16 seasons in both major leagues, he was 106-95 with 97 complete games and 1,761 innings pitched.
Wyatt returned to Buchanan, where he oversaw operations on the farm and ran a gas station until his old Dodger teammate and fellow Georgian, Dixie Walker, just hired to manage the Atlanta Crackers of the Class AA Southern Association, nudged him back to baseball as pitching coach in 1950. “I liked teaching. I got a big kick out of knowing that I really did something to help a pitcher,” Wyatt recalled.15 He cited the development of Dick Donovan’s slider over 1953 and 1954 as the best example of his coaching with the Crackers.16
Atlanta found itself without a manager for 1954. Gene Mauch, who had made his managerial debut with the Crackers in 1953 as a 27-year-old player-manager after Dixie Walker left for the Cardinals organization, abruptly moved on to play with the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League. Crackers owner Earl Mann needed a manager quickly and looked to Wyatt, still with the team as pitching coach.
Wyatt later recalled, “I didn’t want to manage and didn’t think I was cut out to manage, and I didn’t know whether I could handle the situation or not. But I needed the money real bad.”17
With “the best bunch of boys I’ve ever seen in my life,” singling out outfielder Chuck Tanner, Donovan, and another pitcher, Leo Cristante, Wyatt managed the Crackers to the Southern Association regular season title, pennant-sealing wins in the league’s two Shaughnessy playoffs series, and the Class AA Dixie Series championship against the Texas League’s Houston Buffaloes, managed by Dixie Walker. Atlanta had accomplished the same “grand slam” 16 years before; no other Southern Association team ever achieved one.
Throughout his own career and especially with Brooklyn, Wyatt had a hard-nosed attitude. As a coach, he preached it to his pitchers: “I think you ought to play it mean like [Leo] Durocher did. They ought to hate you on the field.”18 Durocher admired Wyatt’s combativeness, picked him as the pitcher he’d start if he had to win one game with one pitcher, and regularly rewarded the righty with $100 bills in his locker for particularly satisfying intimidation. Wyatt knocked down Joe DiMaggio after a Tommy Henrich home run in Game Five of the 1941 Series as Durocher’s Dodgers were fighting to stay alive, and had said earlier in the season, “If DiMaggio was playing in the National League, he’d have to swing while he’s flat on his ass.”19 Wyatt once responded to perceived amusement on the part of Marty Marion of the Cardinals after a brushback by drilling him in the ribs with the next pitch and snarling, “Don’t laugh when I’m on the mound.”20
Wyatt’s success in developing pitchers during his tenure with the Crackers drew attention in Philadelphia, where a friend and fellow 1954 Southern Association (Birmingham) manager, Mayo Smith, had been hired to pilot the Phillies. Wyatt signed a three-year contract as Smith’s pitching and third base coach. The 1954 Phillies had finished 75-79 with Robin Roberts leading the rotation. Roberts had won 23 games and again won 23 for Wyatt’s 1955 staff as the Phillies improved to 77-77. Wyatt stayed on with Smith as the Phillies bounced around .500 through 1956 and 1957, but was replaced by Bill Posedel for 1958.21
Charlie Root had suffered much the same fate in Milwaukee, where the 1957 Braves had won the World Series over the Yankees, but still shuffled their coaching staff for 1958. Fred Haney remained as manager and with Wyatt, styled a “pitching genius” by the Sporting News, available, Haney quickly added the Philadelphia cast-off to his staff. The 1958 Braves repeated as National League champions in Wyatt’s first season, returning him to the Fall Classic for the first time in 17 seasons, but this time the Yankees prevailed in seven games. Under Wyatt, Milwaukee pitchers led the National League with a 3.21 ERA in 1958, and Warren Spahn (22) and Lew Burdette (20) combined for 42 wins. Even the veteran Spahn, at age 37 and with 13 seasons in the majors, learned something, recalling in a 1971 interview that Wyatt helped him improve his slider.22
Milwaukee and Los Angeles finished in a dead heat at the top of the standings in the 1959 NL pennant race, but Milwaukee lost the best-of-three playoff two games to none, and by 1960 Haney was out. Braves management retained Wyatt through a series of managers and disappointing National League finishes: second under Chuck Dressen in 1960, fourth under Dressen and Birdie Tebbetts in 1961, fifth under Tebbetts in 1962 in the now-ten-team expanded NL, sixth under Bobby Bragan in 1963, fifth under Bragan in 1964, and fifth again under Bragan in 1965. Wyatt soldiered on through it all, pitching batting practice, catching his young pitchers to better evaluate them, and admiring 42-year-old Warren Spahn’s 23 wins in 1963.
The Georgian who had rationalized leaving the Crackers’ helm after the triumphs of 1954 by saying, “I had a tough time making up my mind about leaving, but there’s only one place in baseball--the majors,” was able to return South when the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta for the 1966 season.23
With litigation whirling over the move, a region that reveled in its Southern Association history but was hungry for major league baseball welcomed Wyatt as part of the Braves’ get-acquainted fan caravan across Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and north Florida in January 1966. Former Braves public relations director Bob Hope recalls Wyatt’s stature in Atlanta baseball was such that the first-ever Community Night at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium featured a Buchanan tribute to its hometown hero.
Wyatt’s inaugural Atlanta mound staff inevitably lacked the luster of his early days in Milwaukee with Spahn and Burdette. Tony Cloninger was the putative ace at 14-11 and Ken Johnson also won 14. The Braves used 13 different starters and were mired in seventh place on August 9 when Bobby Bragan was fired and replaced by first-base coach Billy Hitchcock. Hitchcock praised Wyatt: “The pitchers have confidence in Whit and they respect him,” he told The Sporting News.24
Hitchcock resuscitated the Braves, leading them to 33 wins in their last 51 games and a fifth-place finish in 1966. The Braves retained him, with Wyatt, for 1967. Hitchcock described the team’s pitching as “one big question mark” in spring training. Wyatt, more optimistic, opined before the season that if lefties Denny Lemaster and Wade Blasingame stayed healthy, “we are going to have one heck of a pitching staff.” 25 Hitchcock proved correct--Lemaster was healthy enough to start 31 games, but won only nine; Blasingame was limited to four starts and 25 1/3 innings. Wyatt once again shuffled through 13 starters as offensive woes offset pitching he still characterized as “good enough to win.” Pat Jarvis paced the staff with 15 wins and 28-year-old Phil Niekro, used as a starter for the first time in his major-league career, got 20 starts in his 46 appearances, worked 207 innings, and won 11. The team ERA was 3.47 against a NL average of 3.38.
Hitchcock, under fire for much of the 1967 season, was terminated after the Braves were swept in a September 28 doubleheader at Cincinnati. Bullpen coach Ken Silvestri oversaw the final three games, all losses, as the Braves finished seventh.
With Hitchcock gone, the handwriting was pretty much on the wall for Wyatt. Braves’ vice president Paul Richards named Luman Harris the new manager in mid-October, retained only Silvestri from the coaching staff, and left the choice of other coaches up to Harris. Early in November, Harris brought in Harry “Fritz” Dorish as his pitching coach for 1968.
Wyatt, now 60, stayed briefly with the Braves’ organization as a roving minor-league pitching instructor and then retired to Haralson County and the cattle farm. There, he continued to rise at dawn to do chores and oversee operations, as he had done in his baseball offseasons and his pre-Crackers hiatus, telling visitors, “I like it. I like farming. I like to be busy.” 26
“Don’t see anything of Whitlow Wyatt anymore,” Furman Bisher, the dean of Atlanta sportswriters, reported in 1990. “He never leaves his county.” After baseball, Bisher recalled in a 1999 Atlanta Journal-Constitution retrospective, Wyatt “snuggled in, never to be tempted again.”
Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, Wyatt was also honored closer to home with a Whitlow Wyatt Recognition Day by the Polk County Historical Society in Cedartown on November 24, 1992. He was unable to attend, but his younger sister Leila Wyatt Mullin told those assembled, “Having a brother in professional baseball all my life was fun. Every summer we went wherever Whit and his family were. We always sat with the other players’ families.” And of the Flatbush faithful, she said, “There was nothing like a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.”27
Wyatt, of whom Dodger teammate Pete Reiser once said, “If I could sculpt a statue of what a pitcher should look like, for form and grace and style, it would look like Whitlow Wyatt,”28 died from pneumonia complications on July 16, 1999, in Carrollton, Georgia. He was 91 and a widower, Edna having died in 1976.
Whitlow Wyatt was survived by his children, John Whitlow Jr. and Ellen Wyatt Holstein, and all of his siblings. He is interred in Buchanan City Cemetery, Buchanan, Georgia.
Creamer, Robert W. Baseball In ’41 (New York: Viking Penguin, 1991) 52, 297, 313.
Darnell, Tim. The Crackers: Early Days of Atlanta Baseball (Athens, GA: Hill Street Press, 2003) 96-97, 99, 105-107, 109-110, 115-118.
Sartain, James Alfred. History of Walker County, Georgia, Vol. I (Carrollton, GA: Thomasson Printing, 1972).
Bisher, Furman. “Kindly Warrior Reaped Respect,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 26, 1999.
Faber, Charles F. “Allen Sothoron,” SABR Biography Project, sabr.org.
Fenster, Ken. “It’s Not Fiction: The Race to Host the 1954 Southern Association All-Star Game,” SABR Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 39, No. 2, Fall 2010, 94.
Harwell, Ernie. “’Welcome Means More to Me Than Beating Yankees’, Says Dodger Ace, Stirred by Tribute,” The Sporting News, October 23, 1941.
Levy, Sam. “Whit Wyatt Says He Owes Baseball Success To One Big Season With Milwaukee Brewers,” Milwaukee Journal, March 29, 1954.
Nitz, Jim. “Ken Keltner,” SABR Biography Project, sabr.org.
Spatz, Lyle. “Dixie Walker,” SABR Biography Project, sabr.org.
Wancho, Joseph. “Dick Donovan,” SABR Biography Project, sabr.org.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 10, 1990.
Cedartown (GA) Standard, July 20, 1999 (Whitlow Wyatt obituary).
Dubuque (IA) Telegraph-Herald, February 22, 1942.
Milwaukee Journal, March 23, 1955.
New York Times, July 19, 1999 (Whitlow Wyatt obituary), August 17, 2013 (Marty Adler, Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 23, 1942.
Rockmart (GA) Journal, December 2, 1992.
The Sporting News, Numerous issues, April 2, 1931, through September 4, 1971.
BallparksofBaseball.com (“Braves Field”)
GeorgiaSportsHallofFame.com (Whitlow Wyatt entry)
NewGeorgiaEncycloperdia.com (Whitlow Wyatt entry and interview video)
TheDeadballEra.com (Whitlow Wyatt obituary)
Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY, Excerpts from Whitlow Wyatt file (Acknowledgment: Gabriel Schechter, SABR).
National Register of Historic Place Listings in Walker County, GA.
Smith, Loran. Whitlow Wyatt interview, 1976 (Transcript, Giamatti Research Center file).
Transylvania County Library, Brevard, NC (Genealogical databases).
Walker County Historical Society, Lafayette, GA (Acknowledgment: Jill Trubey, Curator).
Author’s e-mail correspondence with Bob Hope, former Atlanta Braves public relations director, December 3, 2013 (Acknowledgment: Ray Cox, Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
1 The nine 20-game winners were Roberts (23-14 in 1955); Spahn (22-11 in 1958, 21-15 in 1959, 21-10 in 1960, 21-13 in 1961, and 23-7 in 1963); Burdette (20-10 in 1958 and 21-15 in 1959); and Tony Cloninger (24-11 in 1965). Leo Cristante won 24 with Wyatt’s 1954 Atlanta Crackers (Southern Association, Class AA). Wyatt also had seven pitchers with ten or more wins on the 1952 Miami Beach Flamingos (Florida International League, Class B), a Crackers’ affiliate where Wyatt coached during a one-year Southern Association rule limiting the number of coaches.
2 Walker County is in extreme northwest Georgia, about 100 miles northwest of Atlanta and 30 miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Three U. S. Civil War battles were fought there in August and September 1863, including the Battle of Chickamauga.
3 Lela (Leila) Whitlow Wyatt was a daughter of M. M. Whitlow. Born in 1855, M. M. married Ella T. Shaw, a granddaughter of Walker County pioneer George Shaw. Lela was born in 1879.
4 The other player was Frank Chilton, “a fine left-handed pitcher,” according to Wyatt. (Loran Smith interview with Whitlow Wyatt, 1976). Passed over in favor of Wyatt, Chilton never played Organized Baseball.
5 The Sporting News, April 2, 1931.
6 In parts of nine American League seasons, Wyatt pitched in excess of 100 innings only twice, the cited 205 with Detroit in 1932, and 104 split between Detroit and Chicago in 1933. By far his best AL effort was a one-hit complete game for the White Sox against St. Louis on June 13, 1933. The Browns’ Ted Gullic managed a single in the ninth inning. Wyatt issued six walks, which figured in the St. Louis run as the Sox won, 6-1.
7 “Oh the stuff that [Feller] had, he had the fastball, he had the curve that absolutely exploded,” Wyatt remembered. (Smith interview.)
9 The Sporting News, July 20, 1939.
10 Nineteen-year-old Ted Williams, already in his third season of Organized Baseball, hit .366 with 43 home runs for rival Minneapolis of the American Association that year.
11 Sam Levy, “Whit Wyatt Says He Owes Baseball Success To One Big Season With Milwaukee Brewers,” Milwaukee Journal, March 29, 1954. Al Sothoron “a spitball pitcher and master of trick deliveries; one of the cleverest pitchers in the majors,” was 91-99 with the Browns, Cardinals, Indians, and Red Sox from 1914 through 1926. He died at age 46 in 1939, just a year after working with Wyatt.
12 Wyatt faced 66 batters in this epic effort, yielding two earned runs on 15 hits and two walks over his 16 innings. Played at Braves Field, where field lights weren’t installed until the 1945-46 offseason, the game lasted five hours and 15 minutes before the umpires halted play. The Boston NL entry changed names from “Braves” to “Bees” for the 1936 through 1940 seasons. Although they continued to play in the same venue, it was known as “National League Park” over that period.
13 The best of Wyatt’s four career one-hitters came on August 17, 1941, again at Boston. He faced only 28 hitters and struck out nine in winning 3-0. He didn’t issue a walk, and only Phil Masi’s one-out single in the ninth inning marred a perfect game.
14 Wyatt’s two strikeouts of Joe DiMaggio in Game Five marked the only time the Yankee Clipper suffered that fate through the entire 1941 season. (Robert Creamer, Baseball In ’41, 313.)
15 Smith interview.
16 Donovan had had no success in three trials with the Braves before Wyatt worked with him in Atlanta, where the slider helped Donovan to 29 wins over two seasons. Acquired by the White Sox after the 1954 season, he was 15-9 in 1955 and won 122 major league games in a 15-year career.
17 Wyatt had accepted Dixie Walker’s coaching offer in 1950 in part because he had missed the new baseball veterans’ pension created in 1946, the year after his last major league season. He signed to manage in 1954 for $9,000, recalling that Earl Mann told him, “That’s the most money I’ve ever paid a manager since I’ve been in baseball. If you have a good year you won’t get anything more next year.” (Smith interview.)
18 New York Times, July 19, 1999 (Whitlow Wyatt obituary).
19 Creamer, Baseball In ’41, 313.
20 New York Times, July 19, 1999 (Whitlow Wyatt obituary).
21 Mayo Smith lasted only until the middle of the 1958 season, when he was replaced by Eddie Sawyer.
22 After the 1958 season, Wyatt said of his ace, “There were pitchers with more stuff--Grove, Feller, and Ruffing were some--but none had better control. [Spahn] can do it better than any pitcher I’ve ever seen.” Miami News, October 6, 1958.
23 Milwaukee Journal, March 23, 1955.
24 Wyatt’s obituary in his home-area newspaper reports that he was offered the managerial post when Bragan was fired, but declined. The August 20, 1966, Sporting News article covering the press conference in which Bragan’s firing and Hitchcock’s elevation to manager were announced does not mention any consideration of Wyatt. Nor did Wyatt address the point in his career-spanning interview with Loran Smith in 1976. Given Wyatt’s limited experience as even a minor-league manager, the local obituary account may well be apocryphal. (Cedartown (GA) Standard, July 20, 1999.)
25 The Sporting News, February 25, 1967; March 4, 1967.
26 Furman Bisher, “Kindly Warrior Reaped Respect,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 26, 1999.
27 Rockmart (GA) Journal, December 2, 1992.
28 New York Times, July 19, 1999 (Whitlow Wyatt obituary).