John Woods

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

John Woods – September 16, 1924. Pitcher Woods, back in the year 1924, appeared in just one major-league game and threw just one inning. It was late in the season, September 16, when Woods (born John Fulton Woods) was called on to pitch the eighth inning for the Boston Red Sox. The game was at Comiskey Park against the Chicago White Sox and the two teams were squared off in a battle for seventh place. The White Sox had already knocked three Red Sox hurlers out of the game before Woods got the call.

Coming into the game, the Red Sox were 62-80 and the White Sox were 60-80. Boston was 20½ games out of first place and Chicago was 21½ games behind.

The Red Sox scored first, one run in the top of the first. Chicago started in right away on Boston starter Howard Ehmke, who gave up four runs in the bottom of the first. Boston manager Lee Fohl pulled Ehmke in the third, after he’d given up another run in the second and then two straight singles in the third. Reliever George “Smiler” Murray let the two inherited runners score, and then closed out the inning. It was 7-1, White Sox.

The Red Sox scored once in the fourth and two in the fifth. It was 7-4.

Red Ruffing came on to pitch for Boston in the fourth and was unscathed until he yielded a run in the seventh. The score stood 8-4 in Chicago's favor. Woods then made his debut, getting the first man out – but then he gave up three straight walks before getting the next man (former Red Sox right fielder Harry Hooper) out. Eddie Collins then flied out to Ira Flagstead for the final out of the inning. Woods wasn't involved in fielding any of the outs, so his fielding percentage remained .000. The Red Sox didn't score in the ninth, and the game was over. Woods never got up to bat, so his batting average was .000.

Woods had faced six batters and hadn't given up a hit, so he sported an ERA of 0.00 – but those three walks didn’t impress (he had a WHIP – walks plus hits per inning pitched – of 3.000) and he never got another call. All of his marks became career marks – 0.00, .000, and .000.

The Red Sox weren't going anywhere – though they did finish in seventh place, the only year from 1922 through 1930 that they didn't finish last.

Woods was a right-hander who weighed in at 175 pounds and stood 6 feet tall. (In later years, his widow reported his weight at 150.) He'd been born on January 18, 1898, in Princeton, West Virginia. His parents were Margaret (Peck) Woods and Hugh Gordon Woods, a lawyer in general practice who later became a judge. John had a twin brother, Carl, a younger sister, Umen Claire, and three older siblings, Robert, Ogilva, and Charles.

Woods grew up in East River, Mercer County, West Virginia. He attended the Knob Street School for eight years, then graduated from East River District High School. At the time of the First World War, in September 1918, he was living in Princeton and indicated employment as a timekeeper on the Virginian Railroad. He did serve at least a short stint in the Army later that year, in a program at Washington & Lee University.

He attended West Virginia University at Morgantown and made the varsity baseball team as a freshman. He attended the university for three years, and had entered law school at his father's request, but as to his degree, Woods' widow noted, "Not completed – Spring Training Red Sox 1924."1 The chance to play baseball was a higher priority.

In a 1925 article headlined SOX GET COLLEGIAN, the Boston Herald apparently didn't realize that the former University of West Virginia pitcher they named "Faulton" Woods, coming to Boston on a contract from the Spartanburg ballclub, was the same Woods who had pitched for the Red Sox in 1924. Spartanburg sold his contract to the Red Sox on March 20, 1925.2

How about some minor-league ball? That came after his time in the big leagues. After the 1924 season, Woods, now a former major leaguer, if only briefly, pitched in the minors in 1925.

It was for a team that most people have never heard of – the Dover Dobbins of the Class-D Eastern Shore League, managed by Jiggs Donohue. The team finished fourth in the six-team league. The 1925 Dobbins were the last team for which Woods played. He stopped playing professionally after he had hurt his left shoulder helping to pull a car out of a ditch, which resulted in torn ligaments and tendons.3

Woods married Sarah Elizabeth Charlton, from North Carolina, on July 12, 1922, and by 1930 they were living in Norfolk, Virginia, with John Jr., and Sarah's sister M. Kathleen Wickers and her three children. John was a police officer with the city of Norfolk. However brief his study of law had been, it was "very helpful in his later work as Chief of Police of the city of Norfolk, Virginia."4

Indeed, by the time of the 1940 census, Woods had become the chief of police in Norfolk. He and Sarah had two more children, George and Robert. Baseball helped him become a police chief. He had begun work as a policeman in 1927 and worked as a payroll clerk for 10 years. "He was hired especially to play baseball as the department was badly in need of a pitcher. … He still remained a pitcher for the department as long as they had a team." Woods did qualify further, however, for advancement in the ranks, graduating from the FBI School in Washington. In 1943 he was president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. He was second vice president of the International Chiefs of Police Association and due to become president in 1947 when his life was brought to a sudden and unexpected end.

Chief Woods died in an automobile accident at 12:20 A.M. on October 4, 1946, in Norfolk, just two days before the Red Sox opened the 1946 World Series. There was another car in a ditch, and he had answered a call. He had gone to survey the situation and somehow crashed into the rear of a parked wrecking truck.5 He was killed instantly, having suffered a "fractured neck" and "crushed right chest."6

In 1970 Woods’ widow wrote Joe Simenic of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he had been a track and field star in high school, and excelled in basketball and baseball, and was "a good student, a very capable person, and a fine Christian gentleman."7

Woods did save the game ball from the one game he pitched for the Red Sox and it remained a family heirloom. His widow wrote that she had given it to John Jr., but that he would be happy to send it to the Joe Simenic or the Red Sox "if it would help in any way to enroll his daddy in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown." It was autographed by all the men on the team.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Woods's 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.

 

Notes

1 Player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

2 Boston Herald, March 21, 1925.

3 Letter of September 28, 1970, from Sarah C. Woods to Joe Simenic, contained in Woods' Hall of Fame player file.

4 Ibid.

5 Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, October 5, 1946.

6 Certificate of Death, Commonwealth of Virginia.

7 Sarah Woods 1970 letter to Joe Simenic.