This article was written by Bill Nowlin
With a nickname like “Suitcase Bob,” it’s a safe bet Bob Seeds was a player who moved around a fair amount. In his case, it was Cleveland to Boston, back to Cleveland, and then on to play for both the New York Yankees and the New York Giants. And that’s not to mention the eight minor-league teams for which he played, starting in 1926 and finishing in 1946. Late in his career, he bought his own team and never had to move again.
More often an outfielder, Seeds started in the minors as a shortstop and played a little first base and third base in the big leagues. He was right-handed, stood an even six feet tall, and was listed at 180 pounds.
Ira Robert Seeds was born in Ringgold, Texas, on February 24, 1907. His parents were farmers – Edward Little Berry Seeds and Margaret Isabelle “Maggie Bell” Seeds. Ringgold is about 35 miles east of Wichita Falls.
He attended elementary school in Shamrock, Texas, and played high-school ball at Shamrock-Texola High. He also played shortstop for the local semipro teams in Shamrock and Wheeler. He thought he was pretty good, and a few years later said that some others thought he was “another Honus Wagner.” On graduation from high school, he reported three offers to play pro ball. He signed with Roy Allen of Oklahoma City, who “came to Shamrock and when he handed me a contract calling for $225 a month, I could not sign it too quickly. I was afraid he might change his mind.”1 Oklahoma City farmed him out.
Seeds played for two teams in 1926, the year he turned 19 – the Mexia Gushers of the Texas Association and the Enid (Oklahoma) Boosters of the Southwestern League. Both were Class-D teams. Enid lost to Salina in the league championships. Seeds learned that he perhaps wasn’t cut out to be an infielder in faster company. “I made sixty-one errors in ninety-six games, and most of them were wild throws.”2
He didn’t play at all in 1927. Though he’d been recalled by Oklahoma City, manager Fred Luderus “could not see me at all, and gave me my unconditional release. I was discouraged and decided to quit baseball, but my father had a lot of confidence in my ability. He kept telling me I would be a big leaguer in a few years and kept at me until I began to write around asking for trials.”3 Ed Seeds had told Bob, “You know, I was some pitcher when I was your age, and I know a ballplayer when I see one….Manager Luderus did not know what a good man he was releasing. When he let you go, he was firing a future big leaguer.”4
Sled Allen, Roy’s brother, signed him to Amarillo the following year and he responded. Allen thought Seeds’s arm was too strong for an infielder and told him, “You are an outfielder from now on.”5 Seeds played for the Class-A Western League Amarillo Broncs in 1928, strictly as an outfielder, and hit .340 in 140 games, with 13 home runs. On August 1, it was reported that the Cleveland Indians had purchased his contract.6 The Associated Press reported that he was to report to the New Orleans Pelicans in 1929: “It is understood that Cleveland, whose scouts have been looking the pair over [Pete Mondino as well as Seeds] had a hand in the deal, and intend giving them a big show tryout after another year in the minors.”7
Instead, he reported to the AA Kansas City Blues (American Association) at the direction of the Indians. He played in an even 100 games, and hit .342. On December 5, his contract was sold to Cleveland. He had been married for just 10 days at the time, to Mona Howard on November 25.
Apparently, Cleveland scouts had gone to Kansas City to see first-baseman Joey Kuhel early in the summer of 1929, but on the fourth day forgot about Kuhel because Seeds had caught their eye. Casey Stengel, managing Toledo at the time, said, “This guy Seeds is a fella who grows on you.”8
The Indians had finished third in 1929 under manager Roger Peckinpaugh and were hoping to improve on that in 1930. One of the things they needed was a right-handed hitting outfielder, and they were hoping either Seeds or Johnny Gill would fill the bill. Gill was ranked higher going into spring training, but Seeds “made such a sharp impression on his bosses in the south that they simply were forced to make room for him.”9 He was the team’s fourth outfielder, the kind of outfielder who banged into walls a lot. A Boston Globe article early in 1933 detailed eight times he’d hurt himself – never too badly – crashing into American League outfield walls.10
Seeds was 1-for-5 in hisdebut on April 19. His first RBI came in the eighth inning on May 6, a solo home run that scored the seventh run in a 7-6 win over the Yankees. He had a strong season, batting .285 in 85 games with three homers and 32 runs batted in. He curtailed his season in the second half of September to have an operation done on his nose, and repair an injury that dated to a collision in June. He played more in left field than either of the other two outfield positions, though in 1931, most of his outfield work was in right. He’d also worked out some at first base, in an understudy role. It was only in 1933, with the Red Sox, that he played any significant number of games at first base. He was considered to be the fastest man on the team, despite being having been an “inveterate cigaret smoker since childhood.” He gave it up over the winter of 1930/31.11
H. S. Seeds, Bob’s younger brother, tried out as second baseman for the 1931 Decatur Commodores in the Three-I League.12
Bob Seeds led the Indians in batting in spring training, but he didn’t play as much in 1931. The three main outfielders – Earl Averill, Dick Porter, and Joe Vosmik – were too productive to take out of the lineup, and Bibb Falk even played more games than Seeds, who got into 48 games, batting .306 with 10 RBIs but with 26 runs scored. On August 23, showing off his speed, he scored from second base on a single to left field. It was said that in high school he had run a 9.9 in the 100-yard dash.13 Before the 1932 season began, Peckinpaugh claimed that no team had a better outfield than his, and observed, “Bob Seeds would be a regular on almost any other club. It takes three corking fielders to keep such a player on the bench. But he is fine insurance for us.”14
The Indians decided that Charlie Jamieson would be good enough insurance. Seeds played in all of two games for the 1932 Indians, when he was traded to the White Sox on April 24, with Johnny Hodapp, for Bill Cissell and Jim Moore. Cleveland wanted shortstop Cissell and gave up “one of the most promising young outfielders in the game,” in the words of the Associated Press.15 The Plain Dealer acknowledged that the Indians might be losing a player of real value, dubbing Seeds “a great young prospect…The Indians losing a player who may blossom into a star, but figure that he isn’t doing them any good on the bench.”16 The Chicago Tribune was far more interested in Hodapp for the hometown White Sox, barely mentioning Seeds in its first story on the trade. Hodapp proved to be a disappointment.
Playing for former teammate, now White Sox manager, Lou Fonseca, Seeds appeared in 116 games and hit a solid .290, driving in 45 runs. He moved on to another Sox team, traded (again with Johnny Hodapp, but this time also with Bob Fothergill and Greg Mulleavy) to the Boston Red Sox for Ed Durham and Hal Rhyne, on December 15. Burt Whitman of the Boston Herald wrote that Boston was really after Seeds and Mulleavy – “They are the wheat of this deal and Hodapp and Fothergill the chaff, as you might say.”17 Seeds was penciled in to play center field.
Red Sox president Bob Quinn may have pulled off something of a steal, some felt at the time. “One of the league club presidents tells me that I ought to be ashamed to acquire Outfielder Bob Seeds the way I did from the White Sox,” said Quinn yesterday, “because he said that Seeds, alone, gave me a tremendous edge in the deal. I only hope he proves himself to be right. At any rate, three American league teams have tried to do business with Boston for Seeds since he became our property.”18 The Boston Globe, too, felt that Seeds was perhaps something of a sleeper – “a good all-around ball player – pretty near a star, in fact” and only available because the White Sox had just acquired Al Simmons and Mule Haas.
Seeds played 32 games in the outfield, but put in even more (41) filling in at first base after a serious, lingering injury to Dale Alexander and before the Sox acquired Joe Judge to help at first base. He acquitted himself well defensively (.985) at the less familiar position. All told, he got into 82 games but his hitting was subpar, just .243 (he did have a .310 on-base percentage, however) in 256 plate appearances. He drove in 23 runs.
It was back to Cleveland in 1934. Seeds started the season with the Red Sox, but this was a time of considerable turnover since new owner Tom Yawkey bought the club. By February 1934, there were only seven members of the Red Sox who were still with the team from 12 months earlier. Bob Seeds was one of them, but not for long. He appeared in eight games, seven of them in pinch-hitting or pinch-running situations, and once in a late-inning defensive role in right field. He was 1-for-6 at the plate. When the Red Sox had the opportunity to acquire pitcher Wes Ferrell from the Indians (as well as Seeds’s former teammate Dick Porter), they sent the Indians Bob Weiland, $25,000, and Bob Seeds on May 25. Seeds hadn’t been a big factor in the deal; the money was probably more important. But the Boston Herald wrote, “It seems that ever since Cleveland lost Seeds, they have wanted him back. He’s a great team factor for morale and a humorist and has plenty of friends in and around the Cleveland ball yard.”19 He was apparently quite a bench jockey, though with inoffensive remarks; one story, which called him “Cleveland’s clowning outfielder,” said he had sidled up to Moe Berg,”baseball’s most educated player,” and said, “Say a big word, please.”20 In 61 games during his second tour of duty for the Indians, Seeds hit .247 and drove in 18.
It wasn’t long into 1935 before Suitcase Seeds had a new team; on January 11 he was purchased by the Detroit Tigers for an amount reported as over the $7,500 waiver price. They intended to use him as a utility outfielder. As it happens, they didn’t use him at all. He spent the entire season in the International League, playing in 144 games for the Montreal Royals and batting .315. Likewise in 1936, hitting .317 in 131 games. There was a burst in early August when he belted out five home runs in a four-game stretch, and the New York Yankees – beset by injuries — acquired him on August 22 for a couple players to be named later. They wanted him to fill in for injured outfielder Myril Hoag, who’d been hurt in a collision with Joe DiMaggio. Seeds was leading the I.L. with 45 doubles at the time he was brought to the Yankees.
He played in 13 games for the Yankees and hit four homers and a double, batting .262 (mostly against left-handers) and driving in 10 (one or more in each of his first four games.) He hit two homers in the August 31 game and drove in three as New York beat the White Sox, 5-1. “We knew what Seeds could do,” said manager Joe McCarthy. “He possessed major league experience, was fast and spirited. Why, we didn’t even scout him.”21 Seeds said that the opportunity to play regularly had gotten him back on track,that he’d gotten stale riding the bench the couple of years before Montreal. The story noted that Seeds owned 240 acres of land in Texas, in Texola and Wellington.
For the first time with a club that won the pennant, Seeds was on the roster for the 1936 World Series. Seeds received a half-share of the winners’ pot. He only got into one World Series game. The Yankees held a three-games-to-one lead over the New York Giants, but Game Five went into extra innings. The Giants scored once in the top of the 10th, giving them a 5-4 lead. Bill Dickey singled to lead off the Yankees’ bottom of the inning, and McCarthy inserted the speedy Seeds as a pinch-runner. George Selkirk (not being asked to sacrifice) fouled out and Jake Powell flied out to left. Tony Lazzeri was up. Seeds was asked to steal second, but was thrown out, and the game was over. United Press correspondent George Kirksey, operating without anything resembling replay, wrote that “not only the Yankees, but neutral observers claim that Second-baseman Burgess Whitehead did not touch Seeds.”22 John Drebinger of the New York Times, however, wrote that an “unerring toss by Giants catcher Gus Mancuso nailed him flat.”23
The Yankees won Game Six, and the World Series.
Seeds was in the Yankees’ system now and was optioned to their Newark Bears in January 1937. He played the full year with them (.305 with 20 homers), and Newark won the International League pennant by 25 ½ games over second-place Montreal. In 59 games with Newark in 1938, he hit .335 with 28 homers, which really attracted attention. On May 6 in Buffalo, he hit four homers, one each in four consecutive innings, the fourth through the seventh. He hit three more on May 7, driving in 12 runs in the first of the two games (a league record, the previous record having been nine) and five more in the second.24 On May 29, he had another three-homer game. An unattributed news clipping from August 25, 1938 in Seeds’s player file reported that he had “had an inch cut off his bat early this season” and that the lighter-weight bat made all the difference.
On June 24, the New York Giants had to replace the injured Jo-Jo Moore and purchased Seeds from the Yankees for $40.000.25 The Giants won nine of their first 10 games after Seeds joined the lineup. He played left field, then center, for the rest of the ’38 season, batting .291 with nine homers and a career-high 52 RBIs.
He was brought back for the next two seasons as well, though he didn’t play as much in those full seasons as he had while filling in during his half-season of 1938. He hit .266 in 1939, with five homers and 26 RBIs in 63 games, and .290 in 56 games in 1940, with four homers and 16 RBIs. He was mailed a contract for 1941, but was sold to the Baltimore Orioles before the season began. His big-league days were over; he finished with a lifetime .277 average.
It was a disappointing year for Seeds in 1941, playing at Double A and batting .264 in 108 games. He’d announced a target of 36 homers, but he was beset by illness and injuries and only managed seven. He started the season with Baltimore again in 1942 but was given his unconditional release on May 22. He was batting .143. The Indianapolis Indians picked him up and hit .269 in 66 games. He didn’t hit even one home run during the 1942 season.
In 1943 he signed to manage the Oklahoma City Indians, the team where he had started. It was a short first stint as manager; before he had a chance to run the club for even one game, the Texas League folded and he was without a job. In late April, he signed with the Southern Association’s Little Rock Travelers and batted .321 in 122 games.
In 1944, Seeds did manage; he was a player/manager for Little Rock. They finished fourth. This time he hit .292, again in 122 games. He even pitched in two games – his only recorded time pitching in organized baseball – for a total of four innings, and he won one of them (1-0). Managing perhaps did not agree with him; he resigned his position after the season.
In 1945, though he was expected to play outfield again, he stayed home, by his own choice, announcing on March 31 that he would be managing his sporting goods store and playing semipro baseball.26
Postwar, Seeds took one more position, as manager of the Amarillo Gold Sox (Class-C West Texas-New Mexico League), and played in 32 games, batting .302. The team finished third, just 5 ½ games out of first place. In 1943, it was reported that Seeds and his wife owned the Amarillo ballclub at that time.27 They had owned it for some time, and Mrs. Seeds handled the business affairs of the club while Bob was playing for the Giants. He sold the club in February 1950 but remained as general manager.28
Seeds settled down to life as a rancher “feeding and caring for hogs and cattle” as he put it.29 He reported the name of his ranch as Bob Seeds Hog Farm. He was a member of the Amarillo Masonic Lodge.
His wife died in December 1950. On October 8, 1951, he married Rosalie Higgins.
When he completed his player questionnaire for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the final question asked, “If you had it to do all over, would you play professional baseball?” His response: “You bet I would.” In 1961, he was inducted into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.
Seeds died on October 28, 1993, at the Erick Nursing Center, in Erick, Oklahoma. The Wright Funeral Directors of Shamrock saw to his burial in Shamrock Cemetery. He was survived by son W. R. “Bob” Seeds, and daughters Suzanne Marler and Betty Rew, as well as his brothers H.R. and Weldon, and 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Seeds’ player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at Baseball-Reference.com.
1 Bob Seeds (as told to Ed Burns), “How I Got My Start in Baseball,” Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1932: A2.
4 “Bob Seeds Appears to be Close to Star Class,” Boston Globe, January 8, 1933: A23.
6 Omaha World-Herald, August 1, 1928: 15.
7 Omaha World-Herald, August 9, 1928: 15.
8 Gordon Cobbledick, “Seeds Sprouts So Fast Tribe Glad to Buy Him,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 25, 1929: 26.
9 Gordon Cobbledick, “Tribe Sells Johnny Gill to Baltimore,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 16, 1930: 25.
10 “Bob Seeds Appears to be Close to Star Class,” Boston Globe, January 8, 1933: A23.
11 Gordon Cobbledick, “Picks Pitching to Put Indians Higher Than Fourth Place This Season,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 5, 1931: 91.
12 “Three Decatur Rookies Hope Diamond Skill is Inherited,” Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), May 1, 1931: 16. He seems not to have made the grade.
13 “Ben Chapman Fleetest? This Bullet Seeds May Be Faster,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 30, 1931: 36.
14 “Peckinpaugh Feels Indians Stronger,” Boston Globe, April 5, 1932: 20.
15 “Chisox Trade Cissell, Moore,” Boston Herald, April 25, 1932: 6.
16 “Hodapp and Seeds Traded for Cissell,” Plain Dealer, April 25, 1932: 18.
17 Burt Whitman, “Red Sox Trade Rhyne Durham to White Sox for Fothergill, Hodapp, Seeds, and Mulleavy,” Boston Herald, December 16, 1932: 27.
18 Burt Whitman, “Detroit Writers Belittle Alex for Batting in Only 60 Runs; Fail to Note Mates’ Weakness,” Boston Herald, December 23, 1932: 27.
19 Burt Whitman, “Wed Ferrell, Dick Porter Come to Sox for Weiland, Seeds and Wad of Cash,” Boston Herald, May 26, 1934: 8.
20 George Kirksey, United Press, “Sports Chatter,” Bellingham (Washington) Herald, August 23, 1934: 10.
21 George Lewis, “Seeds Takes Series Break in Stride,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 10, 1936: 18.
22 George Kirksey, “Plucky Giants Hang On with Club which Must Be Bolstered,” The Repository (Canton, Ohio), October 6, 1936: 16.
23 John Drebinger, “Giants Beat Yanks, 5-4, in Tenth; Now Trail in Series 3 Games to 2,” New York Times, October 6, 1936: 1. Shirley Povich of the Washington Post also indicated no uncertainty regarding the umpire’s call.
24 A good account of the games is offered by Michael F. Gaven of the Newark Star-Eagle in The Sporting News of May 12, 1938. The Sporting News added that the record for Organized Baseball at the time was eight home runs in eight at-bats, by Nig Clarke of Corsicana in a Texas League game against Texarkana in 1902, the game played at Ennis, Texas.
25 It was reported in the press that it was $25,000 but a June 27, 1938 letter from Commissioner Landis’s office said that the payment was to Newark, and for $40,000. The letter is located in Seeds’ player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The July 8 New York World-Telegram cited the correct $40,000 figure.
26 “Seeds Quits Pebs for Sporting Goods,” Atlanta Constitution, April 1, 1945: 9C
27 “Pebbles Sign Willie Hudlin for Home Tilts,” The Advocate (Baton Rouge), April 29, 1943: 19. He was still president of Amarillo in September 1944, per the Dallas Morning News of September 28.
28 “Amarillo Ballclub Sold to Knapp,” Dallas Morning News, February 23, 1950: 23.
29 Bob Seeds player questionnaire, National Baseball Hall of Fame.