The 1914 home run leader in professional baseball wasn’t Gavvy Cravath or even Frank “Home Run” Baker, but an unassuming 21-year-old Georgia lumber farmer named Everett Bankston, who banged out 31 homers with Cordele in the Class D Georgia State League in his very first professional season. He never came close to matching that production in any of his 12 subsequent professional seasons.
Unfortunately, the left-handed-hitting Bankston couldn’t parlay that magical minor league season into a major league career, flailing and failing as a late season call-up for the equally challenged 1915 Philadelphia Athletics, who won just 43 games. He became a mainstay in the South Atlantic (“Sally”) League, winning a batting title in 1925. Bankston seemingly quit baseball for good every offseason, before eventually retiring to the family farm in Georgia.
Wilborn Everett Bankston was born on May 25, 1893, in Barnesville, Georgia, to Hiram Everett Bankston, a farmer and patriarch of a prominent pioneer family, and Sarah Dixon “Dee” (Askin) Bankston.1 Everett and his twin sister, Evelyn, were the third and fourth of 13 children born to Hiram and Sarah.2 The family resided in Johnstonville, a few miles east of Barnesville.
In the fall of 1910, young Everett enrolled at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Referred to as Wade in the freshman class write-up, he made the 1911 varsity baseball team as a freshman,3 batting cleanup and playing catcher and third base.4 Pitcher Roland Howell was a teammate. For some unknown reason, Bankston left LSU after one year, enrolling at Gordon Institute back home in Barnesville, and playing football with his new team in the fall of 1911.5
Shortly after the Gordon baseball season in 1913, Bankston played outfield for Atlanta National Bank in the Manufacturers League.6 A late May 1913 report stated that Bankston, “the star catcher of the Gordon Institute baseball team,” was signed by the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates.7 He was recommended to Pirates manager Fred Clarke by Gordon manager Lem “King” Bailey, former National League pitcher, who thought so highly of Bankston that he suggested that the ballplayer forego all minor league offers. The Pittsburgh Press noted that Bankston was “a big youngster, standing five feet 11 inches and weighing 175 pounds.”8 However, as Pittsburgh already had catchers George Gibson, Mike Simon, and Billy Kelly on the roster, Bankston was “let out” a few days later.9 It seems likely that Bankston spent the rest of the 1913 season playing semipro ball, including manning second base for the New Orleans-based Natalbany Reds.10
For 1914, Bankston signed with the Cordele Ramblers of the Class D Georgia State League. Employed as the starting catcher and occasional right fielder, he began his professional career with quite a splash, leading the league in batting in late May at .389.11 He finished the year at .359,12 to go with 144 hits and 82 runs. Thirty-one of those hits were home runs, which led all of organized baseball.13 “Home Run” Bankston was promoted to the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association on August 13, followed by Bankston’s Cordele battery mate, pitcher Dana Fillingim (who had also attended Gordon Institute), a day later.14 Bankston was slotted to replace outfielder Harry Welchonce who had contracted tuberculosis.15 Unfortunately, after Bankston collected but five hits in 38 at-bats (.122) over 11 games for the Crackers, Atlanta returned him to Cordele.16 Bill Holden replaced Bankston in Atlanta’s lineup, as the “Cordele home run hitter is too light for Class A ball yet.”17
Bankston and Fillingim followed their Cordele manager Eddie “Rip” Reagan to the Charleston (South Carolina) Sea Gulls of the Class C South Atlantic League for the 1915 season. Bankston hit .298 over 89 games, yet had only two home runs as of mid-July.18 In early July, Bankston and Fillingim were sold by Charleston to the Philadelphia Athletics, for delivery after the July 20 closing of the Sally League.19 They were signed by scout and former catcher Ira Thomas.20 On August 5, Bankston made his major league debut by being hit by a Hooks Dauss pitch as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the third inning of an 11-5 A’s loss to the Detroit Tigers. Four days later, Athletics manager Connie Mack decided to rest Rube Oldring and Jimmy Walsh and use Chick Davies in center and “young Bankston, of Charleston, S.C., in left.”21 It was stated of Mack that the “tall tutor will give Bankston a thorough try-out in left. He is said to be a smashing batsman, and altogether a lively player.” Bankston didn’t exactly impress in his starting lineup debut, going 0-for-4 and committing two errors in left field in an 8-4 loss against the Chicago White Sox. He was quickly jettisoned, sent along with Tom Healy to the Richmond Climbers of the Class AA International League to play for Jack Dunn.22
After 41 games with seventh-place Richmond, Bankston was recalled later in September by Mack and the deeply-mired-in-last-place Athletics. He played in nine straight home games over eight days, collecting his first hit, a single, immediately followed by his only stolen base, on September 21 off the Tigers’ Red Oldham. He hit his only home run the next day off Jean Dubuc of the Detroit Tigers, the first drive over a Shibe Park fence on the season,23 to a spot called “Baker’s avenue” after the Athletics slugger Frank “Home Run” Baker.24 In his last game, left fielder Bankston made “a sensational catch” on a Shoeless Joe Jackson fly ball, Bankston “ran back on it and fell down as he turned. While on his knees and elbows the outfielder caught the ball a foot from the ground and held it.”25
However, Bankston hit a woeful .139, with a 5-for-36 performance, over his 11 home games at Shibe Park, and did not accompany the Athletics on their final six-game road series against the Washington Senators. The A’s coincidentally lost every game in which Bankston played.
Bankston returned to Richmond for 1916, now led by new manager Billy Smith, batting .325 as the cleanup hitter. He topped the league with 166 hits and finished fourth in batting average. His hits and batting average were both Richmond records which lasted until 1955, after the franchise had reorganized.26
Apparently, the New York Yankees and Richmond had an arrangement. In 1915, the Yankees had paid Richmond $6,500 for a left-handed pitcher named Rube Meadows. A caveat stipulated that, if Meadows did not pan out, the Yankees would have their pick of another Richmond player in 1916. The Yankees claimed Everett Bankston.27
Bankston was invited to the Yankees’ 1917 spring training in Macon, Georgia, where“the Georgia cracker, made the prettiest play of the game” by throwing out batter-runner Al “Roxy” Walters at first base from right field in a March intrasquad matchup, which “raised Bankston’s stock considerably.”28 Still, Bankston was optioned by the Yankees in late March to Toledo of the American Association, the sixth Yankee farmhand to be assigned to Toledo’s camp at Dawson Springs, Kentucky.29 There he singled in a run off pitcher Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox in a 6-0 spring trainingwin in which, playing left field he shared the Mud Hen outfield for a day with right fielder Ty Cobb, who, along with the rest of the Detroit Tigers, had been training with Toledo.30 In only 17 games with Toledo and manager Roger Bresnahan, Bankston committed an atrocious eight errors, before being returned to the Yankees, who flipped him back to Richmond.31 The lefty swatter hit .300 for Richmond (now dubbed the Virginians) with 18 stolen bases and a franchise-record 16 triples.
Still controlled by New York, Bankston was sent on option to the Class A Southern Association Memphis Chickasaws in February 1918. The local Commercial Appeal stated that Bankston and others were “exempt from the next Army draft call.”32 However, Bankston quit in March, writing to Memphis manager Cy Barger that, due to the shortage of farm labor, he was returning to work his family lumber farm in Barnesville, Georgia.33 The farm, “on the national highway a few miles east of Barnesville,” was touted as “the admiration of southbound tourists.”34
Instead, he was soon recruited for the war effort. His rank is unknown, but after being discharged by Uncle Sam in the summer of 1919, Bankston was assigned by the Yankees to the Greenville (South Carolina) Spinners of the Class C South Atlantic League, seeing action in 56 games and hitting .299. The New Yorkers got the better end of this transaction, as Greenville in turn gave the Yankees the right to claim any of its players for $3,500. The Yankees utilized this twice, picking up Norman McMillan and Jess Doyle, who would “have been sold for at least $10,000” on the open market.35 He was re-purchased by the Yankees in August, but during the offseason, was sent to the Dallas Steers of the Class A Texas League. when he refused the Texas assignment, the Yanks optioned him back to Greenville.36
Bankston again stated he was going to quit baseball altogether and farm full time. However, apparently a rabid Greenville fan travelled via train all the way to Barnesville to persuade Bankston to return.37 The ploy worked, as the fan forwarded a telegram to the baseball club stating that “Everett Bankston and I leaving here this afternoon. Will arrive on [Train #]36 tomorrow a.m. C.S. Jones.”38 Back with the Spinners, Bankston led the league with 86 RBIs.39
Bankston collected exactly 200 hits and hit .359 for Greenville in 1921, tying for third in the league with Augusta manager Emil “Hap” Huhn and behind Columbia teammates Goose Goslin and Zinn Beck. After the season, Bankston was traded by the Yankees to the Charlotte Hornets, also in the South Atlantic League, in “the [catcher Luke] Urban deal.”40
On Opening Day for the Hornets, Bankston batted cleanup and homered in a wild contest against Charleston. Charlotte scored 10 runs in the fifth inning, but Charleston roared back with 11 runs in the seventh. Charlotte hung on for the 17-16 victory.41 Hornet manager Dick Hoblitzell, in his inaugural game, said: “It was the worst ball game I ever saw; I hope I’m never in one like it; I thought I would go crazy.” Bankston hit .325 as part of a “Murderer’s Row” quartet of left-handed Hornet batters that also included “Big Ben” Paschal, Wilbur “Bud” Davis, and manager Hoblitzell.”42 Still, Charlotte finished in second place behind Charleston.
Before the 1923 season, Bankston held out, refusing to sign at a reduced rate with the Hornets.43 He finally re-upped with Charlotte, but was sold for $1,500 within the Sally League to the Augusta (Georgia) Tygers in late June. Bankston hit a .327 composite on the year in the league.44
Bankston hit .317 for Augusta in 1924, where it was reported that the man of “quiet, modest demeanor, really the ‘Sphinx of baseball,’ sparkles like old wine.”45 In July, Bankston and teammate Charlie Fulton suffered serious lacerations in a high-speed automobile accident, but fortunately were out of commission for only a few days.46 Also known as “Gentleman Everett,” Bankston was known as “one of the quietest men in baseball. He is one player from whom an umpire never receives a squeak,” a true “Sphinx of the diamond.”47 Augusta won the Sally by one game over Charlotte.
The “Sphinx” shone in ’25, leading the Sally in batting with a .389 average, making it an eleven-year span between his minor league batting titles. He started the campaign with the Columbia (South Carolina) Comers in spring, but was traded to the Nashville Vols of the Southern Association in early June for outfielder Eddie Lewis and cash.48 After two weeks, “the slugging outfielder from the Sally who failed to slug” was returned to the Comers, the Nashville Banner commenting that Bankston “failed utterly in hitting and was not impressive in the field.”49 Bankston waged a summer-long battle with Art Ruble of Charlotte for the league lead in batting.50 After an injury sidelined him for a series in August, in his first week back, Bankston hit a torrid .480 to take the lead for good.51 Unfortunately, a bout of appendicitis in late August ended his season; he returned home to Georgia52 and had the operation in Atlanta,53 but he still claimed the batting crown.
In 1926, Everett married fellow Georgian Florence Dumas. The union did not produce any children. Before the baseball season, Bankston was sold by Columbia to Richmond for $1,250.54 Returning to Richmond (now called the Colts) after a nine-year absence, hehit .321. He was sidelined for over three weeks with a pulled ligament in his right leg.55 Nonetheless, he “won back old admirers” with five hits and six runs scored in an August doubleheader sweep over Portsmouth.56 Richmond won their third consecutive Virginia League pennant by one-half game over Wilson. Bankston would later be named in a history of Richmond baseball as, along with Angel “Bing” Aragón, two of “the most popular players ever to wear Richmond uniforms.”57
Bankston was sold to the Raleigh (North Carolina) Capitals of the Class C Piedmont League in February 1927, but he never reported, writing that he was “through with baseball for good.”58 It was reported that Bankston was “one of the bright stars of minor league baseball and a veteran of many a campaign,” and that “he was always a hard hitter and a clever fielder.”59 Described as “quiet, unpretentious in manner but as dangerous at bat as 16 kegs of dynamite,” he was placed on the voluntary retired list.60
Bankston had a change of heart and re-signed with Raleigh for 1928, replacing Ben Spencer in the outfield.61 The “demon slugger” showed in an April exhibition against the Brooklyn Dodgers that he could still “get around the outfield with dispatch.”62 Bankston, who “emulated Babe Ruth,” belted a walk-off grand slam for Raleigh over High Point on June 14, the first homer to clear the home high right field fence in over two seasons,63 since Jule “Blondy” Mallonnee in 1926.64 Bankston was traded by Raleigh to Spartanburg of the South Atlantic League for Frank “Stump” Edington in July 1928.65 After the season, Bankston called it quits – this time for real.
Bankston finished with a documented career minor league batting average of .322, and returned to work on his father’s Georgia farm for good. He had never again hit more than 10 home runs in a year, after that magical 31 in his first professional season.
Everett Bankston died on February 26, 1970, in Griffin, Georgia, of a heart attack, and is buried at the Fredonia Church Cemetery in Barnesville, Georgia. Bankston’s wife Florence died just two weeks later on March 10.
This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Norman Macht and fact checked by Russ Walsh.
In addition to the sources shown in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, StatsCrew.com, and MyHeritage.com.
1 Bankston’s May 1917 war registration states he was born in neighboring Forsyth, Georgia.
2 Siblings of Everett and Evelyn were Herman (born 1886), Clara Rebecca (b. 1887), Walton (b. 1896), Cora Amanda (b. 1889), Franklin Askin (Frank) (b. 1891), Florence Gibbs (b. 1898), John Smith (b. 1899), Mantilu (b. 1901), William Clayton (1904-1956), Jack (b. 1904), and Atla Sherill (b. 1909).
3 “Sixty L.S.U. Students Trying for Ball Team,” Times Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana), March 6, 1911: 11.
4 “Tigers Defeat Mississippi College in Hard-Played Game; Score 8 to 2,” Times Democrat, April 6, 1911: 11.
5 “Bo Williams to Direct Gordon Institute,” Chattanooga News, September 1, 1911: 10.
6 “Atlanta National 7, Murray Gin 3,” Atlanta Constitution, May 11, 1913: 15.
7 “Goes to Pirates,” Atlanta Constitution, May 31, 1913: 9.
8 Ralph S. Davis, “Bankston, Georgia College Backstop, is Added to Pittsburg Roster,” Pittsburgh Press, May 27, 1913: 28; James Jerpe, “Rainy Day Gossips Frame Big Trade,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 28, 1913: 10; Ed F. Balinger, “Another Game Prevented by Capers of J. Pluvius,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 28, 1913: 15.
9 Ralph S. Davis, “Quakers to Open Here Wednesday,” Pittsburgh Press, June 3, 1913: 24.
10 “Natalbany Reds Beat Carrolltons,” Times-Democrat (New Orleans), September 30, 1913: 11.
11 “Bankston of Cordele Leads State League,” Atlanta Constitution, May 31, 1914: 13.
12 “Bankston Led State League with the Stick,” Atlanta Constitution, December 8, 1914: 12.
13 “Official Averages of Georgia-Alabama (sic),” Nashville Banner, December 29, 1914: 8.
14 “Bankston Signed; Reports Today,” Atlanta Constitution, August 14, 1914: 10; “Pitcher Fillingem (sic) to Join Crackers,” Atlanta Constitution, August 14, 1914: 10.
15 “Crackers Sign Two,” Montgomery Advertiser, August 14, 1914: 9.
16 “3-3 Tie,” Journal and Tribune (Knoxville, Tennessee), August 31, 1914:
17 “Crackers Buy Holden; Ready for Finish,” Chattanooga Daily Times, August 28, 1914: 8.
18 “You Can Get a Comparative Line on Sally Players from These Figures,” Columbia (South Carolina) Record, July 19, 1915: 7.
19 “Two More Players,” Times Dispatch, July 4, 1915: 11.
20 “Strong Array of Recruits Now with Athletics,” Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia), July 27, 1915: 11.
21 “Mack Shifts Garden for Game with Sox,” Washington Times, August 9, 1915: 9.
22 “Richmond Has Highest Paid Player in Minors,” Times Dispatch, August 14, 1915: 5.
23 “Detroit Slaughters Joe Bush in Seventh and Scores Heavily,” Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia), September 22, 1915: 1. All other homers were driven into the bleachers or were inside-the-park.
24 “Baseball News and Notes,” Columbia (South Carolina) Record, September 29, 1915: 9.
25 “Sox Sydelights,” Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1915: 13.
26 Shelly Rolfe, “Baseball Beat,” Times Dispatch, February 10, 1957: 33.
27 “Gossip of the Game,” Buffalo Courier, August 18, 1916: 10.
28 Frederick G. Lieb, “Baumann Signs a Yankee Contract,” The Sun (New York City), March 10, 1917: 11.
29 “Bankston for Toledo,” The Sun (New York), March 28, 1917: 13.
30 Edward F. Martin, “Bedient Turns on Old Mates,” Boston Globe, April 8, 1917: 15.
31 “Bankston to Minors,” South Bend (Indiana) Tribune, May 14, 1917: 10.
32 Herbert Caldwell, “Chickasaws Loom Up Strong in Outfield,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), March 11, 1918: 12.
33 “Everett Bankston, Former Cracker, Quits Baseball,” Atlanta Constitution, March 22, 1918: 14; “Bankston Quits; Chicks in Hole,” Chattanooga Daily Times, March 22, 1918: 8; “Chicks Lose Services of Everett Bankston,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), March 22, 1918: 13.
34 “Barnesville, GA,” Atlanta Constitution, May 5, 1912: 9.
35 Carter “Scoop” Latimer, “Spinners’ Costly Mistake,” Greenville News, December 12, 1945: 9.
36 “Everett Bankston Play Here Again,” Greenville (South Carolina) News, April 13, 1920: 9.
37 “Names That Make News,” Greenville News, July 20, 1937: 9.
38 “Everett Bankston, Arrives Here This Morning with Fan Who Went After Him,” Greenville (South Carolina) News, April 21, 1920: 12.
39 Lloyd Johnson, The Minor League Register, (Durham, North Carolina, Baseball America, 1994), 20.
40 “Luke Bryan is Sold to Yanks: Scoop Crandall OKed Luke Urban,” Evening Herald (Fall River, Massachusetts), September 2, 1921: 2.
41 Eddie Brietz, “Hamilton’s Hurlers Soft,” Charlotte News, April 18, 1922: 14.
42 “Hornets Cop First Game – Spartans Beat Comers,” Greenville News, July 21, 1922: 9.
43 “Bankston Refuses to Sign Hornet Contract,” Charlotte Observer, March 31, 1923: 12.
44 Bailey Groome, “One Man’s Opinion on Sports Topics,” Charlotte Observer, July 1, 1923: 35.
45 Carter (Scoop) Latimer, “Everett Bankston,” Greenville News, June 20, 1924: 12.
46 “Rhinehardt Narrowly Misses Death in Automobile Wreck,” Greenville (South Carolna) News, July 21, 1924: 6.
47 “Bankston Not Much Talker But is Hitter,” Columbia Record, February 9, 1925: 3.
48 Ralph McGill, “Lewis and Friday to Sally; Bankston Reports This Week,” Nashville Banner, June 7, 1925: 15; Blinkey Horn, “Vols Annex Everett Bankston Slugging Flychaser,” Tennessean (Nashville), June 7, 1925: 11.
49 Ralph McGill, “Vols Buy Johnny Bates and Recall Lewis – Bankston Goes,” Nashville Banner, June 21, 1925: 15.
50 “Everett Bankston Climbs Within Striking Distance,” The State (Columbia, South Carolina), August 3, 1925: 9.
51 “Everett Bankston Now South Atlantic Leader,” The State (Columbia, South Carolina), August 17, 1925: 9.
52 “Bankston Out for Season,” The State, August 25, 1925: 10.
53 “Everett Bankston is Now Recovering from an Operation,” Columbia Record, September 2, 1925: 7.
54 “Bought by Colts,” The State, January 1, 1926: 13.
55 Robert Harper, “Jolliff to Pitch on Bronchos’ Lot,” Times Dispatch, May 31, 1926: 10.
56 Robert Harper, “Colts Run Streak to Nine Consecutive Wins, Put Trucks Out of Race,” Times Dispatch, August 15, 1926: 21.
57 A. Woolner Calisch, “The Birth of Baseball in Richmond,” Times Dispatch, September 10, 1939: 54.
58 “Caps to Play Braves,” Bee (Danville, Virginia), March 29, 1927: 8.
59 “Bankston Quits Baseball Field; Star is Passing,” Columbia (South Carolina) Record, March 31, 1927: 12.
60 “Say, What Has Become of…Everett Bankston,” July 10, 1927: 17.
61 “Everett Bankston Signed by Raleigh,” Charlotte Observer, March 21, 1928: 14.
62 A.J. McKevlin, “Dodgers Blank Caps, 12 to 0, in One-Sided Game,” News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), April 7, 1926: 6.
63 A.J. McKevlin, “Bankston’s Homer in Ninth, With Three On, Gives Caps Victory,” News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), June 15, 1928: 13.
64 Anthony J. McKevlin, “Mathews Hurls Win for Locals in Second Game,” News and Observer, April 27, 1930: 19.
65 “Edington to Manage Raleigh Ball Club,” Times Dispatch, July 3, 1928: 4.