SABR

Frank Anderson: The Dean of Southern College Baseball Coaches, 1916–1944

By Paul Hudson

This article was published in the 2010 The National Pastime.

[He] could watch a player plow a field and tell whether there was baseball in his bones.
— said of baseball coach Frank Anderson at Oglethorpe University 

 

On May 11, 1963, the loyal alumni of Oglethorpe University gathered at historic Hermance Stadium on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, for a joyful occasion. They dedicated the verdant two-acre athletic flats—set deep in a natural amphitheater bounded by stair-shaped rubble-cement stands behind home plate—as Anderson Field. The guest of honor was a slightly jug-eared octogenarian, Coach Frank Anderson. Affectionately hailed on campus as the “father of Oglethorpe athletics” and more widely known as an illustrious “dean of Southern college baseball coaches,” he had long since retired. “In dedication to the zeal and talent of Frank B. Anderson, Sr.,” a bronze plaque reads, “who during his years as head baseball coach 1916–1944 helped place the name of Oglethorpe University within the highest ranks of College Baseball, the athletic field you overlook is hereby named Anderson Field.”1

Frank Anderson, 81, looked out on the field where tiny Oglethorpe had won two Southern intercollegiate championships. “I was there [in 1916] when the school opened,” he recalled. It was not long before Anderson was to develop a powerhouse baseball program known as giant killers. The venerable coach briefly reminisced about his best Oglethorpe player, the legendary Luke Appling, who later became one of the greatest Depression-era shortstops in a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago White Sox. The old coach delivered one of his last quoted statements in 1963 at an Oglethorpe sports banquet. With clear blue eyes twinkling in his leathery face, Anderson exhorted the young men in his audience, “Dreams do come true . . . so keep on dreaming.”2 Anderson died three years after the field was dedicated in his honor.

Frank Anderson: Coach Frank Anderson always wore his uniform to practice and to games. He held practices after classes (after labs for science students) and devoted more than half of his drills to hitting, where he said most baseball players need it most.Frank Anderson: Coach Frank Anderson always wore his uniform to practice and to games. He held practices after classes (after labs for science students) and devoted more than half of his drills to hitting, where he said most baseball players need it most.

Born on June 16, 1882, on a family farm near Powder Springs in Cobb County, Georgia, about seven miles from the Douglas County line, Frank Buttner Anderson grew up dreaming about baseball. His family moved to nearby Douglasville in Douglas County in 1890, when the baseball craze in America was underway. Anderson excelled not only on the ballfield but also in the classroom. In 1900 he enrolled at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens. He played three years of varsity baseball and was All-Southern second baseman in 1903 and 1904, when he captained the team.3

At UGA, Frank Anderson established an exemplary standard of the “gentleman” athlete that he was to encourage in all young men who later were to play for him as coach. He always stressed running for conditioning; indeed, his college record for the 440-yard dash was 51 seconds on an oval track, which was not to be broken for 30 years, and then on a straightaway. The ultimate recognition of Frank Anderson as a college gentleman athlete was his election by his peers into the UGA Sphinx honorary society—patterned after Skull and Bones at Yale—which was limited each year to only 13 outstanding young men.4 His greatest sports moment as a collegian was on April 26, 1903, when he hit a ninth-inning, two-out home run to tie the game against arch-rival Georgia Tech at old Brisbane Park on Formwalt Street in Atlanta. With Tech leading 3–0 and just one out to go, Atlanta sportswriter Morgan Blake later recalled, fans had begun to “file to the turnstiles,” but Anderson “pulled a Frank Merriwell on Tech.” What happened was truly the stuff of baseball dreams.5

The story, as told with marvelous hyperbole by a UGA student correspondent, was to take on legendary proportions. Anderson was in a pressure-packed situation, but it “only made him smile.” And then, with a mighty swing, he “lifted the next pitch high and dry over the left-field fence and chased around the bases like the bailiff was after him.” After he crossed home plate there was reportedly so much excitement “that the game had to give way for a few minutes to the hundred or more men [fans] who rushed the field to embrace Frank.” Tech supporters bitterly alleged that the homer was the result of luck. The 3–3 score meant that “new life was injected into the team and victory was assured for the Red and Black.”6 Indeed, UGA won the game; Anderson’s teammates, in the custom of the times, later awarded Anderson a medal for his achievement, and it became one of his most prized sports mementos. More than twenty-five years later, UGA seniors were still telling underclassmen the classic baseball story of Frank’s home run.7

After receiving his A.B. degree in 1904, Anderson began coaching in Georgia prep schools. In his first assignment, in 1904–5 with the University School for Boys at Stone Mountain, Anderson’s Bluebirds compiled a 12–1 championship record. Thus he began a forty-year coaching career and the first of his many championship teams. In five years of prep-school coaching, Anderson always held the title Athletics Director and Mathematics Professor. He believed that mental discipline was vital to learning mathematics and to playing sports, and he thought that academic and athletic endeavors should be closely related. Anderson never liked the term “star” and preferred to call his players “gentlemen” athletes.8

Anderson married Lorena Walton Brown in Athens in 1905—she had attended the Lucy Cobb Institute there and was a UGA baseball fan of his—and the newlyweds moved to Thomaston, Georgia. Frank and Lorena raised a family of five boys, all of whom played college baseball as second basemen, like their father.9 Anderson taught and coached at R. E. Lee Institute and in 1905–6 won his second prep-school championship, with a 12–2 record. There Coach Anderson recruited what he later called “[his] first real prospect.” Paul Stowers, Anderson remembered, “was six feet and five inches tall, as slender as a rail, and could throw a baseball like [a gun shoots] a bullet.” The coach, having somehow found Stowers guarding convicts on a chain gang in Upson County, Georgia, immediately brought him to R. E. Lee as a pitcher. “Connie Mack signed him right out of school,” Anderson remembered. Stowers later had a minor-league career, mostly in the South, from 1907 to 1912, winning ten games or more for four seasons.10

1904 University of Georgia team: Frank Anderson (front row, left) was captain and All-Southern second basemen that year.1904 University of Georgia team: Frank Anderson (front row, left) was captain and All-Southern second basemen that year.

Anderson’s success as a prep-school championship coach put him much in demand throughout Georgia, and in 1906–7 he assumed duties at Gordon Military Institute in Barnesville. Assessing the talent, Coach Anderson scheduled a game between his juniors and seniors before the season opened. He had seen young Bradley Hogg, who had a “peculiar sidearm delivery,” playing catch on campus and, on an inspired hunch, asked him to pitch. “Nobody could hit it,” Anderson chuckled, so Hogg “pitched nearly all our games that spring and we never lost a one.” After a stellar career at Mercer University in Macon, Hogg played in the National League for Boston and Chicago. He was also successful in six years in the minor leagues, with a .620 winning percentage and two twenty-win seasons, including a 27–13 record in 1917 with Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. Hogg’s best major-league season was 1918, when he was 13–13 with three shutouts for the Phillies.11 

In 1909, Anderson’s prep-school success was so great that UGA invited him to return to Athens to serve as head baseball coach. Anderson always regarded a 1910 contest hosted by Tech at The Flats, the historic old playing field in Atlanta, as the most exciting game he had ever coached. It was an ultimate defensive struggle, a 0–0 tie that went fourteen innings until the game was called. The two starting pitchers struck out ten and twelve batters. The bases were loaded seven times, yet superior defense prevailed. “There were a dozen times when it looked as if the tie might be broken,” Anderson recalled, “but the fielders worked as sensationally as the pitchers and every scoring threat was killed.” He was particularly proud of his catcher, who cleanly fielded seven bunts in front of home plate to throw men out at second every time. A scout from the Chicago Cubs who was there agreed with Anderson that it was the most exciting game he had ever seen. “It was certainly the Halley’s Comet in the baseball firmament,” wrote sportswriter Dick Jemison, “the brightest light that had ever shown in this section of the country.”12 In subsequent seasons, 1911 and 1912, Anderson compiled 17–5 and 15–6–2 records for UGA to win consecutive SIAA (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) championships.13 

Despite his success coaching at UGA, Anderson in 1913 relocated to Atlanta, moving his family to a residence at 224 East Ponce de Leon Avenue in Decatur, where Frank and Lorena were to live for more than thirty years. He taught and coached at Commercial High for the 1914 and 1915 seasons, but these won– lost records are not clear. By then Anderson had heard about the flamboyant educator Dr. Thornwell Jacobs (1877–1956), who had gained much publicity with his plan to “resurrect” Oglethorpe University. Old Oglethorpe, founded in 1835 near Milledgeville in the approximate middle of Georgia, ceased to exist during the Civil War. President Jacobs, having secured land nine miles northeast of Atlanta in the wilderness off Peachtree Road, opened the doors of a refounded Oglethorpe University in 1916 and hired Anderson to serve as registrar, professor of mathematics, and athletic director.14 

Jacobs wanted his college to be a “living memorial” to James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of the original British colony of Georgia. The granite Gothic architectural style he favored was inspired by Oglethorpe’s alma mater, Corpus Christi, Oxford. The school yearbook was christened Yamacraw after the famous bluff near Savannah where Oglethorpe had arrived in Georgia. For athletic teams, Jacobs and Anderson chose an unusual mascot—the petrel, a small, persistent seabird that had inspired Oglethorpe when he was at sea. The nickname for the university teams, the Stormy Petrels (pronounced, idiosyncratically, “pea-trels”), is unique in American intercollegiate athletics.15

As a late “start-up” baseball operation in 1917, Anderson was obliged to arrange a partial schedule. Oglethorpe practiced on its rough campus field and did not have stands or facilities for spectators. The Petrels played their home games in Atlanta at Spiller Field (later called Ponce de Leon Ball Park) or Grant Field at Georgia Tech. Anderson’s first collegiate victory was at Grant Field, a split of a doubleheader with Clemson University. His captain that year was catcher Lucien “Bird” Hope of Atlanta, a Tech High School graduate and astute student of the game who became a prominent Atlanta high-school coach and later would coach Luke Appling at Fulton High in Atlanta’s City League.16 

In 1918 Anderson coached his first big win for Oglethorpe, a tight 1–0 victory over Vanderbilt at Spiller Field. “Yesterday I saw a dream come true,” Jacobs later exulted.17 Winning on the mound was freshman Absalom Holbrook “Red” Wingo Jr. of Norcross, Georgia, who really was a third baseman. Immediately after his only college season, Wingo signed with the Atlanta Crackers. He played briefly for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1919, later logging five seasons (1924–28) for the Detroit Tigers, some of that time under player-manager Ty Cobb. For six major-league seasons and 1,326 at-bats, Wingo hit .308. His best year was 1925, when he compiled a .370 average.18 

By 1921, Anderson was developing full schedules and had a record of 17–10–3, which included sweeps of doubleheaders at Ponce de Leon Ball Park against the Auburn Tigers and the University of Alabama Red Elephants. At the end of the season, Oglethorpe pitcher Lucas Newton “Chief” Turk of Homer, Georgia, signed with Columbia, South Carolina, of the old Sally League. Clark Griffith bought his contract in 1922, and Turk quickly (and briefly) became a major leaguer with the Washington Senators.19 Eventually Turk, an excellent student in science as well as an outstanding pitcher, earned an M.D. degree from Emory University and became a prominent Atlanta doctor. One of Turk’s college friends, John Randolph Smith, once related a story from their undergraduate days. Several students were on a nature walk with Oglethorpe botany professor Eugene Heath. Spying a beautiful bloom on a tulip tree about forty feet away and knowing Turk’s reputation as a precision power pitcher, the professor asked his student if he could throw a rock to detach the flower—whereupon, Smith swears, Turk calmly picked up a rock, took aim, and threw it, clipping the stem holding the bloom!20 

Coach Anderson’s 1921 team captain, outfielder Roy Carlyle of Buford, Georgia, who played with Turk, also went on to the major leagues after a brief stint in the minors. From 1925 to 1926, Carlyle played for Washington, Boston, and New York in the American League. A collection of clippings, including one said to be from the Guinness World Records, located at the Old Timers Baseball Association in Norcross, Georgia, relates that on July 4, 1929, in Oakland, California, Carlyle hit the longest home run in professional baseball, off Ernie Nevers, a former Stanford All-American football player. Carlyle hit a fastball that left the park and landed on a roof outside the stadium. Witnesses noted the point of impact, a still-visible dent in a gravel rooftop, and then carefully measured the distance at 618 feet.21 The college success of Georgians “Red” Wingo, “Chief Turk,” and Roy Carlyle at Oglethorpe from 1918 to 1921 began a sustained interest in Anderson’s Oglethorpe teams by major-league scouts. 

It was not until April 29, 1922, that Anderson, after more than five years, finally hosted a home game on the Oglethorpe campus. Trustee Harry Hermance in 1919 had made a pledge that he would donate $5,000 per year for ten years to begin building a stadium, and Oglethorpe, with the help of Anderson’s athletes, had hewn out a field on the wooded campus. Playing Wofford College, Oglethorpe had a 2–1 lead in the top of the ninth, but the Terriers loaded the bases with no outs. In the twinkling of an eye, Oglethorpe pulled a triple play on a ball sharply hit to an unidentified infielder for a sudden walk-off win.22 In his unpublished history of Anderson’s coaching career, Earle J. Moore relates this remarkable story with no supporting details, and there appears to be no written account of this particular game. It is indeed difficult to envision any single baseball defensive-play scenario that would have made for a narrower margin of victory.

1924 Oglethorpe University baseball team: Coach Frank Anderson (standing, left) and his 1924 Southern champions.1924 Oglethorpe University baseball team: Coach Frank Anderson (standing, left) and his 1924 Southern champions.

Meanwhile, Anderson continued to recruit excellent ballplayers from unlikely rural places. When he was in Mountville, Georgia, a farming community in Troup County near LaGrange, Anderson in 1920 met Jay Partridge working “between two plow handles” in a cornfield. Indeed, Atlanta writers believed “Anderson could watch a player plow a field and tell whether there was baseball in his bones.” And when he talked to the friendly, polite Partridge, the coach knew he wanted this young man on his team.23 Partridge, who was an honor graduate from Oglethorpe in 1924, later played second and third base for Brooklyn. His best year as a Dodger was in 1927, with 572 at-bats and a .260 batting average, but his career lasted only two years.24 

In 1924, Anderson’s Stormy Petrels became Southern champions when they won twenty of twenty-two games, compiling a .909 winning percentage. The only losses were splits in doubleheaders with Dartmouth and the University of Georgia. A turning point came early in the season when the Oglethorpe academic dean suspended “a certain student” for an infraction concerning a university rule and most of the team went “on strike.” The players met with President Jacobs in his office, asking for reinstatement of their teammate or they would leave college. “I rose and shook hands with all the squad and told them goodbye,” Jacobs wrote in his diary, “expressing my regret they were leaving us.”25 

Undaunted, Anderson quickly rebuilt his team, primarily with scrub players, for a game against Wofford College. The coach knew he could depend on a few varsity regulars not to sit out the game. These included Jay Partridge and the outstanding pitcher Leonard “Lefty” Willis. Anderson, who as registrar knew all the Oglethorpe students, then recruited good athletes, especially track runners. The Stormy Petrel “Strikebreakers,” so termed by Jacobs, lambasted the Terriers 18–6. Afterward, the regular ballplayers apologized to Jacobs, who granted reinstatement in time for a second game against Wofford that Oglethorpe also won. Anderson’s biographer Earle J. Moore contends that this episode, more than any other factor, brought the 1924 players together with their coach and Oglethorpe to allow them to win the Southern championship.26 

The critical series for Oglethorpe in 1924 took place when the University of Alabama came to Oglethorpe’s Hermance Field. Alabama, with only two losses— the same as Oglethorpe—had a claim to the Southern championship. This distinction, before the Southeastern Conference, included all Southern colleges, members of the SIAA, the Southern Conference,  and those in the region playing as independents. The Petrels got off to a 7–5 lead with their second-best pitcher, sophomore Mark “Hump” Humphrey, on the mound. In the fourth inning, in a surprise move, Anderson brought in his ace, and “Lefty” Willis preserved a victory. In the second contest the Petrels, with a somewhat rested Humphrey pitching, easily won 6–1. Oglethorpe continued with two wins over rival Mercer University as well. The Stormy Petrels defeated Georgia Tech, coached by Alva “Kid” Clay, in a doubleheader to win the Atlanta City Championship and became undisputed Southern champions.27 

In 1925, Anderson competed well for the Southern championship with a 19–7 record that included sweeps in doubleheaders versus Vanderbilt, Georgia, and Mercer along with splits against Ohio State, Georgia Tech, and the Fort Benning service team. The college yearbook proudly observed that “Oglethorpe played a brand of ball that made her nines famous throughout the country.”28 Some of the best Oglethorpe players signed with major-league teams when they concluded their college careers, sometimes early or after graduation; these included Partridge (Brooklyn Dodgers) and Willis (Pittsburgh Pirates).29

Willis was Coach Anderson’s best southpaw pitcher. Born in the West End of Atlanta in 1902, he was a star athlete at Boys High. In three years, from 1923 to 1925 (freshmen were not allowed to play varsity), Willis logged records of 6–2, 7–0, and 8–0. His best game was a 1–0 victory against Georgia Tech at Grant Field to clinch the 1924 Southern college baseball championship. However, just as important as baseball to Anderson and to Willis were Willis’s studies at the unique Lowry School of Banking and Commerce at Oglethorpe, which attempted to bring “the best academic spirit along the lines of practical success in the country’s business activities.” In his senior year, Lefty’s classmates saluted his versatility and love of his commerce (business) major: “He has many original ideas and expects to use them in the advertising business after he has a fling with the Pittsburgh Pirates.” Unlike many talented athletes whom Anderson coached, Willis was never tempted to leave college early for baseball. As it turned out, the Pirates sold his contract to the New York Giants, which sent Willis to the Columbus (Georgia) Foxes—where he later would pitch against his old college coach.30 

Despite all the good students and athletes under Frank Anderson in the mid-1920s, the one destined to have the greatest impact on Georgia baseball played only on the junior varsity and dropped out of college. Otis Earl Mann (1904–90) “attended Oglethorpe University for two years, pitching for the baseball team,”according to an obituary.31 Mann was on the 1925 “Baby Petrels,” the first Oglethorpe freshman team with its own schedule, which had a 14–5 record and also played scrimmage games against Anderson’s varsity. Mann’s coach was Homer Chestnutt on Anderson’s staff. Soon after leaving Oglethorpe, Mann became assistant business manager of the Atlanta Crackers, later in the 1930s rising to president and owner of a phenomenally successful franchise that won ten Souther Association pennants. Mann developed an extensive scouting system. Earle Moore relates that Mann’s “scouts brought in players from farms . . . mill towns . . . school teams . . . everywhere.” The Crackers trained these players at Ponce de Leon Ball Park and then “their contracts were sold to the highest bidder of major league clubs.” This key element of Mann’s success, Moore contends, is reminiscent of what he terms the Anderson System of scouting baseball players on nearly every kind of team in Georgia.32

By 1927, Anderson’s teams were so consistently strong that he began to schedule professional teams, including the Crackers. Oglethorpe had long competed with the always tough Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, which fielded professional athletes on special service teams. Anderson’s recruiting and scheduling led to a blurring of the line between amateurs and professionals. Oglethorpe shortstop Earl “Shep” Shepherd, for example, started the 1926–27 school year with a contract to play for the Cleveland Indians (under player-manager Tris Speaker) whenever his college career ended.33 Anderson scheduled Oglethorpe’s opener that season against the Columbus Foxes. Hugh “Buck” Buchanan, from Tate, Georgia, pitched a threehitter to shut out the Foxes 6–0. But in the second game Lefty Willis defeated his alma mater.34 Two days after the Columbus series, Anderson took his team to play the Atlanta Crackers. Anderson’s decision to pitch Buck Buchanan on two days’ rest looked good as he “mowed down . . . the professionals of Atlanta for six innings as if they were so many tin soldiers.” Meanwhile, the Petrels were demonstrating a stinging offense with one of their characteristically technical aspects of hitting. “Frank Anderson has trained his boys to bunt and squeeze with smoothness and precision,” effused sportswriter Guy Butler,” noting that “two of their three runs were pulled off on perfect bunts.”35

Playing professionals conditioned the Petrels marvelously to compete against college teams. Oglethorpe scored victories against Clemson and Furman and again won the 1927 Atlanta Championship, this time with 4–3 and 6–1 wins against Georgia Tech in a drizzling rain at Grant Field. Shortstop Shep Shepherd slipped on the wet turf when making a throw and hurt his arm, but Anderson shifted him to outfield for the next nine games. Shepherd reported to the Cleveland Indians on June 1, 1927, as scheduled.36 Meanwhile, alumnus Lefty Willis still aspired to play in the major leagues.

Tragedy struck young Willis in the 1928 offseason in Atlanta. After taking his new bride to dinner at the Atlanta Athletic Club one cold night, Willis found that their car would not start and tried to crank it. His left hand caught on the license plate on the front bumper, damaging his tendons and muscles severely and ending his baseball career. Rather than dwell on what had happened, Willis used his Oglethorpe degree, gained on a baseball scholarship, to begin a successful thirteen-year career in the circulation department with William Randolph Hearst’s Atlanta Georgian. Willis eventually realized a lifelong dream when he became the owner of a successful Atlanta advertising firm.37 

The year 1929 had all the earmarks of prosperity for Anderson’s athletic program when the impressive first granite section of Hermance Stadium was ready for play. Oglethorpe dedicated it when the Stormy Petrels hosted the University of Dayton Flyers in a football game on October 26 of that year. Three days later, Harry Hermance lost his entire fortune when the stock market crashed. Hermance Stadium, which was intended to be bowl-shaped, never was completed and even today stands as a monument to the Great Depression.38 

Luke Appling: Hall of Famer Luke Appling when he played for Oglethorpe in 1930, his only year of college baseball.Luke Appling: Hall of Famer Luke Appling when he played for Oglethorpe in 1930, his only year of college baseball.

In the Depression year 1930, Anderson again produced a Southern championship with a 17–1 record, scheduled against nearby teams as a cost-cutting measure. Oglethorpe opened with a doubleheader sweep against the Clemson Tigers at Hermance Stadium. The first game marked the collegiate debut of Petrel shortstop Lucius Benjamin “Luke” Appling Jr., who drove in three runs with a double. Oglethorpe swept a doubleheader from the Fort Benning Soldiers and also a three-game series against Georgia Tech at old Rose Bowl Field in Atlanta. It was clear that the Stormy Petrels were having a spectacular year. “As for Frank Anderson, I think he has one of the finest nines in Southern baseball,” opined sportswriter Morgan Blake, coining a term by dubbing Oglethorpe a “Sportanic Eruption.”39 Anderson, who had continued his practice of scheduling professional teams, led his Petrels against the Lindale (Georgia) Pepperells of the Georgia– Alabama League and split a doubleheader, the only Petrel loss that year. Oglethorpe rebounded with a sweep over the Carrollton (Georgia) Champs.40 

When Anderson brought his 12–1 team, undefeated in collegiate competition, into Athens to play the University of Georgia, Oglethorpe faced a stiff challenge. In a twelve-year rivalry, the Bulldogs enjoyed a 12–6–3 advantage. But Hubert “Hot” Holcomb slammed the door shut with a one-hit shutout while Oglethorpe erupted for seven runs. Completing doubleheader sweeps against Georgia and Mercer, Oglethorpe won another state championship. With four games remaining, the Petrels were stunned when catcher and team leader Al Kimbrel abruptly signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers and left school to play for the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Johnnies of the Middle Atlantic League. Anderson characteristically wished Kimbrel the best, and Oglethorpe played on.41

The Stormy Petrels ended the 1930 season against Mercer, as the teams helped dedicate the new Callaway Stadium at a neutral site in LaGrange, Georgia. Oglethorpe wanted to complete the season undefeated in college play to become undisputed Southern champion. The hero was Luke Appling, who in his last game as a collegian hit four consecutive home runs and later signed with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association.42 Hitting .326 in 104 games with Atlanta in his only minor-league season, Appling began his distinguished professional career, and the Chicago White Sox bought his contract. He ended his long 1930 season with a .308 average in six games with Chicago. It was to be the start of a twenty-year .310 Hall of Fame career as a seven-time All-Star White Sox shortstop.43 In his only year of baseball under Frank Anderson, Appling was one of the greatest hitting college short stops of all time. As a right-hander, at times he could seemingly line, slice, or punch singles to the opposite field at will. Anderson once said, “Luke could watch a curve ball” better than any player he ever coached. Moreover, Appling had an ideal hitter’s temperament. “Some hitters miss their hits two days in a row and go into a slump from plain worry,” Anderson observed, “but Luke goes back on the third day to get his share.”44

The innovative Anderson was such a widely respected coach in the South that by 1931 he was able to persuade his five major rival institutions—Georgia Tech, UGA, Mercer, Florida, and Auburn—to form the Dixie College Baseball League. He had in November 1929 proposed such an alliance as a cost-cutting measure. The League was designed with symmetry and mathematical precision: Each college was to play the other in two-game series on a home-and-home basis, a kind of massive round robin tournament for a twenty-game season in which individual statistics in common would be extremely meaningful.45 

The Dixie League arrangement meant that in 1931 Oglethorpe hosted Georgia Tech, the only time the Yellow Jackets ever visited Hermance Stadium. Anderson used a wicked bunt attack—teasing rollers down both baselines and in front of home plate—that bewildered Tech. Young Ralph McGill, destined for Pulitzer greatness as an editorialist for the Atlanta Constitution, covered the game and witnessed a “bloody second inning” when the Petrels netted five runs with six hits, three of them bunts. With a 6–5 lead in the eighth inning, Anderson again unleashed aggressive bunts for two more runs to ice the game. “The Petrels bunted the Jackets sick,” McGill reported.46 Indeed, as a college baseball strategist Frank Anderson was a notable exponent of the bunt, which he placed into three categories: “the hit (for clever players), the push (bat held tightly and pushed firmly), or the drag (down the baseline).” To players he advised: “Bunt only good balls.” To coaches he said, “Time to use: when score is tied or when you are ahead . . . never when you are behind.”47 Oglethorpe’s “bunt victory” over Tech enabled the Stormy Petrels to place second to Auburn, the Dixie League champion. Moreover, with a 2–1 series lead over Tech and a rainout, Oglethorpe for a third consecutive year was the Atlanta City champion.48 

As the Depression deepened, Anderson’s dream of the Dixie College Baseball League ended in 1932 when Mercer dropped its program and UGA and Tech declined to continue. Anderson began to use his own money for equipment. He eliminated train travel and rented two cars that he and his players drove on short road trips. As colleges curtailed baseball, Anderson creatively scheduled other competition. In 1932 Oglethorpe played teams as diverse as the Atlanta Penitentiary Commodores (understandably restricted to “home” games) and the independent semipro Bona Allen Shoemakers. Sponsored by Bona Allen Mills, they were a dominating force in North Georgia baseball during the Depression, later becoming 1938 semipro national champs.49 

Oglethorpe University, 1930s: The granite collegiate gothic Oglethorpe University campus on Peachtree Road outside Atlanta during the Great Depression of the 1930s. From left, Hermance Stadium, Lupton Hall bell tower, and Administration Building. The Southern Railroad is in the foreground.Oglethorpe University, 1930s: The granite collegiate gothic Oglethorpe University campus on Peachtree Road outside Atlanta during the Great Depression of the 1930s. From left, Hermance Stadium, Lupton Hall bell tower, and Administration Building. The Southern Railroad is in the foreground.

The greatest opposing team that Anderson ever scheduled for Oglethorpe was the St. Louis Cardinals, led by manager Gabby Street, in an exhibition game in Dublin, Georgia, on March 31, 1933. The Cards, popular in Georgia as the Southern-most major-league team, had been 1931 world champions and were destined to repeat that distinction in 1934. This “Gas House Gang” was returning to St. Louis after spring training in Florida. Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge was special guest of honor for the occasion. One can only imagine the excitement of Anderson and his players when they took the field before an overflow crowd of 2,000 at the Dublin Fairgrounds against such major league stars as Ducky Medwick, Frankie Frisch, and Rogers Hornsby. Adding to the festive air, Dizzy Dean and Pepper Martin served on the umpiring crew. That the Cardinals won 4–0, with eight hits against Oglethorpe’s four, did not detract from a special day for Anderson’s Stormy Petrels.50 To those who criticized the coach for scheduling more experienced professional teams, he made no apologies. “You have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” he maintained, and such games were the experiences of a lifetime. Anderson also believed he could see how his players handled pressure while learning first-hand from professionals. Plus, he knew that everyone pulls for the underdog. Besides, the wise coach smiled, “You might get lucky.”51 

Oglethorpe fielded competitive teams during the Depression, but Anderson’s days of championships were over. His best player of the early 1930s was Elmer “Greek” George of Waycross, Georgia, who logged five seasons of major-league baseball for four teams as a bench player in the late 1930s and early 1940s.52 With U.S. involvement in World War II, colleges everywhere lost athletes to the war effort, and Anderson’s players enlisted, were in the Army Reserves and called to active duty, or took jobs in war-related industries. Anderson finished his distinguished coaching career anticlimactically, with a one-game season in 1943 at Hermance Stadium against an Army team, Lawson General Hospital from nearby Chamblee. Oglethorpe won 6–1, with Earle Moore pitching.53 Anderson subsequently suspended all varsity sports at Oglethorpe, coaching only intramurals, and retired in 1944. 

Frank Anderson’s record at Oglethorpe over twenty-seven seasons was 296–210–14, a .575 winning percentage against a wide assortment of teams from large universities, small colleges, mills, Army service teams, semi-pro and professional ranks, all the way up to the St. Louis Cardinals. Against his major rivals, Anderson was competitive against UGA (31–34–3), Georgia Tech (20–22–1), Auburn (22–32–2), Mercer (24–15–1), Florida (12–12–1), and Clemson (10–3). He had shorter rivalries against Alabama (5–6), South Carolina (4–0), Tennessee (4–2), and Vanderbilt (4–1). Far more often than not in these series, Oglethorpe was the visiting team. While Anderson did not schedule small colleges as often, some ongoing rivalries were Furman (13–4), Wofford (8–1), Presbyterian (7–3), and Birmingham Southern (7–2). Other series were against the semipro Buford Shoemakers (6–5), Atlanta Penitentiary (8–0), Fort Benning (14–8), and the Atlanta Crackers (1–9).54 During his tenure at tiny Oglethorpe, which averaged enrollment of only a little more than one hundred full-time students, Anderson sent three pitchers and nine regular players to the major leagues for a combined total of about forty years’ playing experience, half of which Luke Appling performed in his Hall of Fame career.55

Three years after his retirement from Oglethorpe, Frank and his wife, Lorena, relocated to Albany, Georgia, where he began a new career. He thrived on work, managing the Albany AAA Motor Club office for nineteen years. He relaxed by listening to baseball games on the radio while sitting in a favorite rocking chair on his front porch. Anderson continued correspondence with his “baseball boys,” including Earle J. Moore, his last Oglethorpe pitcher, who in his own retirement wrote a touching unpublished memoir about his old coach. Frank Anderson died on November 8, 1966, and he and Lorena are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Albany.56 

“Every baseball game is full of thrills,” Frank Anderson once said. “There is a whole lifetime of crucial situations, demanding quick and correct decisions, compressed into each game. That is why it is the greatest sport ever invented.”57 Anderson had the uncanny ability to convey his love of the game to those who played it. Oglethorpe player Jim Decker, who traveled with Anderson on a recruiting tour, commented on his rapport with all players. “Everywhere I went with him . . . Coach Anderson was greeted with outstretched arms. He was loved, whether he was at a small town stop sign in Georgia or anywhere we traveled.”58 Announcing Anderson’s posthumous induction into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1966, Atlanta sportswriter Charlie Roberts saluted “the South’s best-known baseball tutor.”59 Anderson Field, which now is lighted and used not only by Oglethorpe but also by various leagues and young players throughout the year, would no doubt make the old coach happy today. “If there exists a baseball heaven in the far beyond for greats that have contributed to the grand old American game,” Ross Wyrosdick of the Atlanta Constitution once wrote, then “surely a seat will be reserved for Frank Anderson.”60

PAUL STEPHEN HUDSON, associate professor of history at Georgia Perimeter College, has published extensively in "Atlanta History", "The Georgia Historical Quarterly", and the online "New Georgia Encyclopedia".

  • 1. “Anderson Field to Be Dedicated,” The Flying Petrel (National Alumni Association of Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia) 45:6 (April 1963) 5–6; “Anderson Field Dedication,” Albany (Georgia) Herald, 28 May 1963. Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. “Georgia’s All-Time Baseball Record, 1886–1949,” University of Georgia 1950 Media Guide, University of Georgia Athletic Department Records, Athens, Georgia.
  • 4. Program, Annual Awards Banquet, State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Inc. Atlanta Biltmore Hotel, December 9, 1966; Bill Clark, “Hall Inducts Anderson, Suggs, Butts and Shiver,” Atlanta Constitution, 10 December 1966, 10. Anderson was inducted posthumously, having died about a month before, and his son Eddie accepted the award. Other inductees in 1966 were UGA football coach Wallace Butts, All-American I. M. “Chick” Shiver, and golfer Louise Suggs, amateur and LPGA champion.
  • 5. Morgan Blake, “Frank Anderson Pulled a ‘Frank Merriwell’ on Tech in the Ninth Inning: Thrilling Rally by Georgia with Count 3–0 Against Her in the Last Round—Anderson Tied the Score with Home Run over Left Field Fence—Game Was Played at Brisbane Park,” unidentified clipping; “Georgia Wins from Tech, by a Spurt in the Ninth and Tenth: Varsity Wins Her Third Game—Frank Anderson the Hero of the Occasion.” The latter article appears to be from the UGA student newspaper The Reporter, which was the predecessor to The Red and Black. Georgia’s 5–3 victory, the article relates, was “one of the hottest finishes ever seen on a baseball diamond.” Unidentified clippings, both from the Frank Anderson Scrapbook, Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia. Frank Merriwell, to whom writers compared the young Anderson, was a mythical All-American heroic character created by Gilbert Patten (under the pseudonym of Burt L. Standish) for Street and Smith publishers about 1895. He was “frank for frankness, merry for a happy disposition and well for abounding health and vitality.” See Susan Ikenberg, “Education for Fun and Profit: Traditions of Popular College Fiction in the United States, 1875–1945,” in Susan Huddleston Edgerton, ed., Imagining the Academy: Higher Education and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge Falmer, 2005), 53.
  • 6. Blake, “Frank Anderson Pulled a ‘Frank Merriwell.’”
  • 7. Willard Neal, “Biggest Thrills in Baseball,” Atlanta Journal Magazine, 24 May 1931, 11.
  • 8. MS 23, box 19, folder 5, p. 17, Earle J. Moore Collection, Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia (hereafter Moore Collection). Earle J. Moore graduated from Winder (Georgia) High in 1940 and remembered when baseball was such an integral part of life in the state that businesses regularly closed on Wednesday afternoons to allow employees and customers to watch small-town competition. Moore attended Oglethorpe University on a baseball scholarship and was a 1943 alumnus. He pitched in the last game Frank Anderson coached. Afterward, Moore played service baseball for the U.S. Army Lawson General Hospital team in Chamblee, Georgia. He became a mathematics teacher and coach at various secondary schools in the North Georgia area, including Woodward Academy, Douglas County High, and Rabun County High, where he became principal. Moore was a lifelong devotee of Frank Anderson and, like his coach, loved both academics and all sports, especially baseball. In retirement Coach Moore undertook an ambitious research project and completed an unpublished 858-page typewritten manuscript, complete with appendixes, index, and illustrations, entitled “Petrel Glory: The Early Athletic History of Oglethorpe University.” It deals primarily with Oglethorpe football and baseball, and Part I is entitled “Coach Frank B. Anderson, Sr.” The Earle J. Moore Collection consists of twenty-two boxes in a rich archive that has never been used for publication.
  • 9. Willard Neal, “Oglethorpe Coach Makes Stars: Frank Anderson Has Sent Twelve Men to the Major Leagues and Has Coached Twenty-one Players Who Have Entered Professional Baseball. In Addition He Has a Family of Five Second Basemen,” Atlanta Journal Magazine, 3 July 1927, 13. (The figure of twelve men “sent to the Major Leagues” apparently includes some players who signed but did not play.)
  • 10. Unattributed, “Peachtree Road Big Leaguers: Frank Anderson Brought Plowboys, Waiters and School Kids to Oglethorpe and Turned Them into Big League Players,” Atlanta Journal Magazine, 18 May 1941; “Paul Stowers,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed 21 December 2009).
  • 11. Neal, “Oglethorpe Coach Makes Stars”; “Bradley Hogg,” www.baseballreference.com (accessed 22 December 2009).
  • 12. Dick Jemison, “Georgia and Tech Fight Fiercely in Great Game: Fourteen Rounds of Brilliant Ball Ends with Neither Side Able to Tally. Collier and Brannan Twirl Superb Ball. They Were Given Great Support by Their Teammates—Both Teams Had Several Chances to Win—Rival Rooters Yelled Themselves Hoarse—Georgia Wins the Series.” Unidentified clipping, Frank Anderson Scrapbook. Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia. Darkness brought an end to the epic game that was reportedly played before a crowd of 4,000.
  • 13. MS 23, box 9, folder 4, Moore Collection.
  • 14. Catalogue of Oglethorpe University, Second Year, 1917–1918, published by the University (Oglethorpe University, Georgia), 33. Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia. Anderson’s hiring did not make the publication deadline for the First Year catalogue.
  • 15. See Paul Stephen Hudson, “Flight of the Stormy Petrel: The Glory Years of Oglethorpe University Athletics,” Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, 36, no. 2 (summer 1992): 13.
  • 16. MS 23, box 19, folder 9, pp. 57–58, Moore Collection.
  • 17. Thornwell Jacobs, diary entry, 2 May 1918, Step Down, Dr. Jacobs: The Autobiography of an Autocrat (Atlanta: Westminster Publishers, 1945), 295.
  • 18. “Al Wingo,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed December 23, 2009).
  • 19. MS 23, box 19, folder 10, appendix C, Lucas Newton “Chief” Turk’s 1922 Baseball Contract with the Washington Senators. The document is labeled “American League of Professional Baseball Clubs Uniform Players Contract . . . .” The Washington club agreed to pay Turk “for skilled services during the playing season of 1922 . . . $300.00 per month.” If he reported for Spring training on March 10, 1922, there would be a $100.00 per-month salary increase. It is signed in flowing script, “Clark Griffith, Pres.” However, Turk pitched in only five games in 1922 for Washington and gave up ten runs in eleven innings. “Lucas Newton Turk,” www.baseballreference.com (accessed 1 February 2010).
  • 20. John Randolph Smith to Earle J. Moore, 25 January 1985. MS 23, box 19, older 13, p. 143, Moore Collection.
  • 21. Ibid., 141; “Roy Carlyle,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed 23 December 2009). See Sally Toole, “Brothers in Baseball,” Remembering Norcross [Georgia]: Nuggets of Nostalgia (Charleston, S.C. and London: History Press, 2009), 70.
  • 22. MS 23, box 19, folder 10, p. 164, Moore Collection.
  • 23. Unattributed, “Peachtree Road Big Leaguers.”
  • 24. “Jay Partridge,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed 22 December 2009).
  • 25. Jacobs later recalled this incident in a diary entry (5 October 1936) in Step Down, Dr. Jacobs, 495.
  • 26. MS 23, box 19, folder 16, p. 218, Moore Collection.
  • 27. Ibid., pp. 222–29; “Baseball Review: [1924] Dixie [Southern] Champions.” Yamacraw 1925 [Oglethorpe University Annual] published by the Senior Class, 104–5 (Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia).
  • 28. “Baseball Review [1925],” Yamacraw 1926, 101 (Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia).
  • 29. Ibid., Yamacraw 1925 and 1926.
  • 30. Yamacraw 1925 and 1926, 100 and 22–25; “The Baseball Career of Leonard ‘Lefty’ Willis,” MS 23, box 19, folder 19 p. 307, Moore Collection. Willis was to compile a 13–10 record in two years with the Columbus Foxes. “L Willis,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed February 2, 2010).
  • 31. Darrell Simmons, “Earl Mann, Who Owned Atlanta Crackers in Pennant Years, Dies,” Atlanta Journal, January 6, 1990.
  • 32. MS 23, box 19, folder 17, pp. 255, 307, Moore Collection.
  • 33. MS 23, box 20, folder 20, appendix D, “Life and Career of Earl Lenward Shepherd,” pp. 870–80, Moore Collection. Shepherd’s injury and subsequent turnover in the Cleveland Indians organization (the American League elected Cleveland president E. S. Bernard as AL president and Tris Speaker resigned), as well as Earl’s desire to finish his studies in 1928 (which he did), caused complications with his major-league aspirations. He later taught sciences and coached at Tech High in Atlanta, where his best player was Marty Marion, who was to play shortstop with the St. Louis Cardinals. In the 1930s Shepherd was a chemist for Atlantic Steel and played semipro for the company team, sometimes called Dixiesteele. He was on the 1937 team that won the Atlanta City championship. Moore based this section of his manuscript on interviews and correspondence with Earl Lenward Shepherd, 1984–90.
  • 34. MS 23, box 19, folder 19, p. 307, Moore Collection.
  • 35. Guy Butler, “Hugh Buchanan Toys with Pros for First Six Innings; But Oglethorpe Ace Weakens in Seventh and Is Beater; Niehoff Goes on Batting Rampage,” Atlanta Journal, 29 March 1927; MS 23, box 19, folder 19, p. 310, Moore Collection.
  • 36. “Life and Career of Earl Lenward Shepherd,” MS 23, box 19, folder 19, p. 307, Moore Collection.
  • 37. “The Baseball Career of Leonard William ‘Lefty’ Willis,” MS 23, box 19, folder 17, pp. 256–57, Moore Collection. Moore based this sketch on correspondence and interviews with Lefty’s wife, Frances England Willis, and his son William Willis from October 1985 to June 1986.
  • 38. See Hudson, “Flight of the Stormy Petrel,” Atlanta History, 17.
  • 39. Morgan Blake, “Sportanic [sic] Eruption,” Atlanta Journal, April 11, 1930.
  • 40. MS 23, box 19, folder 22, p. 402, Moore Collection. Moore details Anderson’s 1930 championship season in chapter 20, “The 1929–1930 School Year.” (He used an academic calendar to organize much of his manuscript.) The Stormy Petrels lost a 9–8 game against the professional Pepperells. Stung, Oglethorpe responded in the second game with a resounding 16–4 victory, limiting the Pepperells to five hits.
  • 41. Ibid., 406; “Albert Kimbrel,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed 2 February 2010). Kimbrel caught and batted .283 with 339 at-bats. Because it was in 1930, this entry is almost certainly Coach Anderson’s Al Kimbrel. He also caught for Hartford in the Eastern League and the Atlanta Crackers in the 1930s. “Albert Kimbrel,” ibid.
  • 42. MS 23, box 19, folder 22, p. 402, Moore Collection.
  • 43. Ibid., “Lucius Benjamin ‘Luke’ Appling, Jr.,” 410–13. Because of conference rules, Appling could not play varsity sports until his sophomore year. “Luke Appling,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed December 22, 2009).
  • 44. Jack Kytle, “Appling Would Make Good in the Majors—Anderson,” unidentified clipping, Frank Anderson Scrapbook, Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 45. Ed Miles, “Petrels in Dixie League Debut Against Georgia,” Atlanta Journal, 6 April 1931. William A. “Alex” Alexander, Athletic Director at Georgia Tech, was president of the league.
  • 46. Ralph McGill, “Auburn Takes Dixie Pennant; Tech Is Beaten; Florida Upset as Tigers Win Flag; Petrels Victorious,” unidentified clipping, Frank Anderson Scrapbook, Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 47. MS 23, box 9, folder 21, Moore Collection. Moore about 1943 completed a thirty-seven-page handwritten notebook in ink that is a remarkable compendium of fundamental baseball techniques and strategy envisioning numerous scenarios: “The Coaching of Baseball: Notes from the Lectures of Coach Frank B. Anderson: Baseball Knowledge That He Has Accumulated thru 27 Years as Baseball Coach at Oglethorpe University.”
  • 48. MS 23, box 19, folder 23, p. 443, Moore Collection.
  • 49. MS 23, box 20, folder 1, pp. 621–23, Moore Collection. Anderson managed only one victory in four games against the Bona Allen Shoemakers in 1938. They defeated Enid, Oklahoma, that year in Wichita, Kansas, for the semipro championship. Several former Oglethorpe players, including catcher Al Kimbrel, who had left Oglethorpe in 1930 to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers, were on the Buford team.
  • 50. Ed Miles, “Dublin Home-Coming Proves Great Success: Cardinals Trim Petrels 4–0 in Well-Played Exhibition Game Before 2000 Fans,” unidentified clipping, Archives, Weltner Library, Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Georgia. Miles reported “fans were convinced that Frank Anderson, peerless leader of the Petrels, has another championship team in the making.” MS 23, box 20, folder 15 Appendix G, Moore Collection. “Program of the Oglethorpe–St. Louis Cardinals 1933 Baseball Game”— Dublin Lions Club sponsoring Homecoming Day March 31 [1933] St. Louis Cardinals vs. Oglethorpe University Fairgrounds 2:30 P.M.
  • 51. MS 23, box 19, folder 20, p. 234, Moore Collection.
  • 52. “Greek George,” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed 23 December 2009).
  • 53. MS 23, box 20, folder 12, p. 747, Moore Collection. Even in the unusual wartime one-game season, five members of Anderson’s last team went on to professional baseball in the Georgia State League, in cities such as Jesup, Fitzgerald, and Carrollton. Earle J. Moore played for Thomasville and later for the Lakeland (Florida) Pilots in the Detroit Tigers organization.
  • 54. MS 23, box 20, folder 13, pp. 781–809, Moore Collection.
  • 55. Oglethorpe University Registrar’s Office records; “Oglethorpe University Stormy Petrels (Atlanta GA),” www.baseball-reference.com (accessed 22 December 2009).
  • 56. MS 23, box 20, folder 14, p. 856, Moore Collection.
  • 57. Unattributed, “Peachtree Road Big Leaguers.”
  • 58. Jim Decker graduated from Oglethorpe in 1939 and signed with the Chicago White Sox, where Jimmy Dykes assigned him to room with Luke Appling. Joe Cronin of the Boston Red Sox later purchased Decker’s contract and sent him to Greensboro, North Carolina, of the Piedmont League. MS 23, box 20, folder 8, p. 651, Moore Collection.
  • 59. Charlie Roberts, “Butts, Anderson, Suggs, Shiver to Enter [Georgia Sports] Hall of Fame,” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 20 November 1966.
  • 60. MS 23, box 9, folder 1, Moore Collection. Ross Wyrosdick, “In This Corner,” unidentified clipping.
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