Howard Camp was a teenage starter in the inaugural game of the Georgia-Alabama League for the Talladega (Alabama) Indians, later becoming a manager and umpire in multiple Southern leagues, and, finally, a Detroit Tigers scout. He was one of a quartet of New York Yankees to make their debut on the same September 1917 afternoon. His major-league highlight, collecting four hits, occurred in his third of only five career games spanning four memorable days.
Howard Lee Camp was born on July 1, 1893 in Hopeful, Alabama, the third of ten children born to Nathaniel Christopher Camp, a farmer and later president of a local cotton mill, and Lucy Arlene (Adams) Camp. Howard’s siblings were: Mary Elizabeth, Mamie, Dora Ada, Minnie, Lena Mae, Harvey, Ernest Cecil, Nannie Ruth, and Frances. The Camps resided in nearby Munford according to the 1900 and 1910 censuses.
By the summer of 1911, the just-turned-18-year-old Camp was starting in left field for the neighboring amateur Talladega contingent against other community teams such as Lineville, Columbiana, and the state amateur champions Roanoke.1 In July of the next year, the city of Talladega inherited a disbanded squad from Huntsville (Alabama) in the Class D Southeastern League, naming them the Highlanders, but there’s no record of Camp playing for them.
By the spring of 1913, Camp won an Opening Day starting job in right field as a 19-year-old for Talladega, now called the Indians, of the new Class D Georgia-Alabama League. As the local paper reckoned, “What would a tribe of Indians do without a Camp? The boy from Munford was loaded with the goods and he delivered them” in the debut victory against Opelika (Alabama).2 The youngster batted .314 in 90 games during his inaugural professional season.
Returning to the local Indians for 1914, Camp went four-for-four with a homer and double in a June victory over LaGrange. Fellow twenty-year-old Art Decatur was a 1914 teammate. In early August, the “young outfielder from Georgia” was signed by Chattanooga to be a utility man, replacing Doc Shanley.3 On August 8, “young Camp was given a chance” by manager Moose McCormick for Chattanooga.4 However, after Camp’s showing McCormick “decided he wouldn’t do,” and the lad was sent to the Cordele team in the Georgia State League so Chattanooga could make roster space for youngster Ike Caveney.5
In 1915, back with Talladega, he played in 57 games, batted .325, and manned center field, but the Georgia-Alabama League disbanded on July 14. Trying again in 1916, the GAL once again disbanded early, this time on July 22. Camp was teammates and roommates in 1916 with an 18-year-old rookie named Johnny Gooch, who went on to play 11 big-league seasons.6 Camp, hitting .309 in 59 games, made the GAL “All-Star” team, as selected by an Alabama writer.7 Camp had moved to the Charleston Sea Gulls of the Class C South Atlantic League by mid-July, but only hit .205 in two months there, playing in 42 games.8
His war draft registration from May 1917 said he was a ginner (operator of a cotton gin machine) and a Charleston ballplayer. Camp claimed an exemption, which was denied, for religious belief, being a member of the Church of Christ. He also stated that both arms had been broken in the past. The year 1917 on the ballfield in Charleston was much different for Camp, with a torrid first half placing him at .357 over 77 games. In late June, Camp and Sea Gulls teammate Aaron Ward were purchased by the New York Yankees and assigned to the Newark Bears of the Class AA International League. Camp hit .302 in 50 games in Newark.
In mid-September, Camp was one of several rookies acquired by Yankees president Jacob Ruppert. They reported in September to manager Bill Donovan. The Yankees were mired well in the second-division in sixth place.9 Upon Camp’s arrival in New York, scribes contended Howard had a “fighting face,” as he was “a ringer” for boxer Terry McGovern, the one-time world bantamweight and featherweight title holder.10
On September 19, Camp, along with Bill Lamar, Chick Fewster, and Walt Smallwood, made his major-league debut at home against the Cleveland Indians.11 Camp batted leadoff and started in right field in place of Frank Gilhooley. Camp went 0-for-3 with a walk, as the Yankees recruits were one-hit by Stan Coveleski in a 2-0 defeat. Camp also misplayed a double by Tris Speaker, with the ball caroming off the wall allowing a run to score.
The New York Sun’s byline read “Yankees Accept Daily Trouncing” and added, “though reinforced by a drove of bush leaguers, the Yankees remained as feeble as before and squeezed out but one solitary hit from Stanley Coveleski.”12 The next day, the Yankees surrendered again to the Indians, 6-2, with Camp going 0-for-4 and letting a single go through his legs for a two-base error.13 On this day, Camp shared the outfield with Sammy Vick, making his own major-league debut.
Still in the Polo Grounds, the Yankees next faced pitcher Allen Sothoron and the sad-sack St. Louis Browns, 13 ½ games behind New York in seventh place. The New York Times headline read, “Camp and Lamar, from the Bushes, Do Chief Work in Beating Browns.” Camp, in his third game, went four-for-five with a double and three runs scored, and Bill Lamar added three hits and three RBIs, in the 9-6 Yankees victory. It ended a six-game losing streak.14 Camp also committed his second error in as many days, but still Camp, who “cavorted in center field, was the large noise of the afternoon.”15
The next day, Camp went 2-for-9 in a doubleheader loss to the Browns, getting one hit in each game. The immortal Grantland Rice penned that “while the debutantes fielded well enough, they were powerless at bat.”16 Those would be Camp’s last games in the major leagues. But that would not be his last game as a player in a Yankee uniform. The day after, on a Sunday afternoon, the Yankees went upstate to play an exhibition game organized by Ruppert in honor of the “Plattsburg Men,” a dedication of the student officers of the Citizens’ Military Training Camp located in Plattsburg, New York. Camp had a double in the contest.17
The next March, Camp, a “promising outfielder,” was “called to the colors,” leaving the Yankees camp in Macon, Georgia.18 He was listed as Class 1-A, and thus called to report back home in Alabama. He would be a second lieutenant of an army calvary unit.19 As of January 1919, Camp was one of only three Yankees known to still be overseas, along with Sammy Vick and pitcher Bob McGraw.20 Camp soon arrived in the Yankees’ training camp, but was sent down under option by now-manager Miller Huggins to the Toledo Mud Hens of the Class AA American Association.21 Camp was the opening day center fielder for Toledo manager Roger Bresnahan, but hit only .252 in 123 games for the Bears.
In 1920, Camp signed with the Dallas Marines of the Class B Texas League. As of late June, the “newcomer” Camp was leading the Texas League in hitting at .345,22 before dropping to third place at .333 by September. After Dallas’s season ended, Camp was traded by the parent Yankees to the Vernon Tigers of the Pacific Coast League for Johnny Mitchell. New York later sent Ernie Shore, Truck Hannah, Bob McGraw, and Ham Hyatt to Vernon in January 1921 to complete the deal.23 Camp played in 13 games down the stretch for Bill Essick’s pennant-winning Tigers.
Camp hit .345 in 156 games in 1921. “He helped comprise one-third of a “hard-hitting outfield” which included Rhino Williams and Don Brown for the league champion Memphis Chickasaws in the Class A Southern Association.24 Camp spent three seasons in Memphis, hitting over .300 each year. In 1922, be batted .311 in 149 games. The following season, the consistent Camp hit .305 in 149 games.
During this time, he married Alice Jeanne Weissinger, a local Memphis clerk and waitress. Their union produced a son, Howard Casey Camp, born on May 16, 1923. Unfortunately, Howard and Alice divorced, and he married Olivia Frances Holbrook Casey later in 1923.
Camp stayed in the Southern Association in 1924, but transitioned to the Birmingham Barons, hitting .312 for the seventh-place Barons. For 1925, Camp signed with the Reading (Pennsylvania) Keystones of the Class AA International League. He was reunited with his old Memphis manager Spencer Abbott, now leading the Keystones. Camp was quickly identified in camp in Florida as the “pep-master of the Reading squad.”25 He was sold in mid-July to Nashville,26 and immediately inserted into the lineup.27 Camp started off his Nashville career going 33-for-63, a .524 clip, with four home runs, three triples, and six doubles, in his first 16 games.28 He collected a hit in his first 20 games.29 Camp ended his half-season with Nashville with a .368 average.
In 1926, he spent spring training for Nashville in a Hot Springs, Arkansas spa “to get in flychasing shape.”30 He also suggested that Nashville sign Polly McLarry, old Memphis and Reading teammate, to play first base.31 Eleven games into the season, Camp led the league at .459 for Nashville.32 After 23 games, he was hitting .486.33 Throughout the summer, he continued “to deal misery to the ball.”34 He belted two homers and added a double and single in a June win over New Orleans.35 He finished the season with a .326 batting average in 123 games. That same year, in Nashville, he and Frances welcomed a daughter, Paula Ruth..
Nashville asked waivers on Camp in January 1927, saying they wanted to move to a younger roster. Camp came to the Charlotte Hornets in the Class B South Atlantic League, and although tickled with his new city, he believed he was Southern League-worthy.36 Camp hit .305 in 150 games for the Hornets.
The next January, Camp sought his release from Charlotte in order to manage the Meridian Metros in the Class D Cotton States League. The Charlotte Observer was sad to see him depart, declaring Camp was “one of the hardest-working players the Sally league boasted.”37 He was the unanimous choice of the Meridian board of directors, on the recommendation of President Mose Winkler.38 On his squad he had a local recruit infielder named Eric McNair and Alabaman pitcher Ivy Andrews in his first full pro season. Camp also managed slugger Sam Leslie, who hit .368 for Meridian in 1928, his second season with the club. Lastly, Camp brought along his old teammate Polly McLarry, in his last pro season. Camp became “obstreperous,” later to be ejected with police assistance and fined, in an August loss to Hattiesburg (Mississippi).39 Soon after, Camp was replaced as manager by Dee Payne, and left to play for the Anniston (Alabama) Nobles of the Georgia-Alabama League.
For 1929, Camp, still residing in Munford, was named by team chairman R.D. Gaines as player-manager for nearby Talladega of the Georgia-Alabama League.40 Eighteen-year-old Sam “Shorty” Holbrook from Meridian, touted as a “.350 hitter,” signed with Talladega and Camp in late March.41 Camp’s brothers, Harvey and Cecil Camp, also played with Talladega.42 On May 10, C. Camp (Cecil) led off and played shortstop, H. L. Camp (Howard) batted second and played third base, and H. N. Camp (Harvey), who had played for the Anniston Nobles in the GAL in 1928, batted fifth and played right field in a May loss to Anniston.43 The Camp’s brothers also played against Gadsden three days later. Howard Camp is the only known player to suit up in both the 1913-1917 and 1929-1933 versions of the GAL.
The veteran outfielder signed with the new Pine Bluff (Arkansas) Judges for 1930, in the Cotton States League. He had announced his retirement, to tend to his “prosperous cotton business in Arkansas,” but the “call to return to the game was too strong.”44 Manager Wray Query declared that Camp had “been in baseball as long as I have.”45 By June, however, with Pine Bluff in last place, Camp had a strained leg, and hung up his spikes.46 In 1931, the Camps welcomed son Joseph Lee, born in Alabama. Two years later, Frances performed “I Feel a Verse Coming On” at the Munford Club Minstrel Show.47
By 1937, Camp became an umpire in the Alabama-Florida League. Two years later, he worked in the Class B Southeastern League.48 He later spent nine years as a Southern League arbiter until 1948. The 1940 census shows Howard, Frances, Howard C., Ruth, and Lee all living together in Boaz, Alabama, with the patriarch’s stated occupation as a ginner.
In 1948, Camp left his position as a Southern League umpire to become a scout in the Southern region for the Detroit Tigers.49 That June, he signed Bubba Phillips from Macon, Mississippi. Phillips played 10 years in the majors.50 Future super scout Mel Didier (then attending Mississippi Southern College) was one of the other two prospects whom Camp invited to Detroit along with Phillips for a workout.51
In January 1949, Camp, his wife, and son “escaped through a window when fire destroyed their home” in a January fire near Helena, Arkansas. No one was injured.52
In 1952, talent scout Camp spoke at “Career Day” at Central High School in Jackson, Mississippi,53 the same school from which he had plucked pitching prospect Red Gookin. In his decade of scouting, Camp was credited with signing eventual major-leaguers Chick King, Chuck Daniel, and Walt Streuli.54 By 1958, Camp had retired as a scout and “settled down in Eastaboga as a farmer.”55
On May 8, 1966, Howard Camp died suddenly of a myocardial infarction56 at the age of 66 in Eastaboga, Alabama. He was eulogized as a “long-time favorite of Southern Association fans during his playing days with Birmingham.”57 Camp was survived by his wife Frances, sons Howard C. and Joseph L., daughter Mrs. E.L. Smith, and father N.C. Camp of Munford. He is buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in Boaz, Alabama.
This bio was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Bruce Harris and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.
Thanks to Rod Nelson and SABR’s Scouts Committee for input on that phase of Howard Camp’s career, and to Rory Costello for additional input and getting the Scouts Committee involved.
In addition to the sources shown in the notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, MyHeritage.com, and the SABR Scouts Committee.
1 “Lineville Goes Down Before the Locals,” Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama), August 2, 1911: 1.
2 E. Williamson, “Indians Defeated the Opelicans in First Game of Season by Score Five to Eight,” Our Mountain Home, May 7, 1913: 8.
3 “Camp, Young Outfielder from Georgia, Signed,” Chattanooga (Tennessee) Daily Times, August 6, 1914: 9.
4 “Even Break for Locals,” Chattanooga Daily Times, August 9, 1914: 18.
5 “Camp Sent Back to Cordele; Salt Lake Youths Due Tomorrow,” Chattanooga Daily Times, August 14, 1914: 8.
6 Carltons Open 16-Day Road Trip in Memphis,” Birmingham (Alabama) News, April 24, 1921: 52.
7 “Another Pick of an All Star GAL Team,” Anniston (Alabama) Star, July 19, 1916: 2.
8 “Montgomery 5, Charleston 3,” Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, July 15, 1916: 7.
9 “Yankee Recruits Report for Work with Donovanites,” Washington (DC) Times, September 14, 1917: 17.
10 “Notes,” New York Tribune, September 20, 1917: 13.
11 W.J. Macbeth, “That Old Name Coveleskie Continues to Strike Terror,” New York Tribune, September 20, 1917: 13.
12 Frederick G. Lieb, “Yankees Accept Daily Trouncing,” The Sun (New York City), September 20, 1917: 13.
13 W.J. Macbeth, “Yankees Make a Sorry Showing Against Indians,” New York Tribune, September 21, 1917: 13.
14 “Yanks Win with Aid of Recruits,” New York Times, September 22, 1917: 12.
15 Charles A. Taylor, “Wild Bill’s Youngsters Break a Losing Streak,” New York Tribune, September 22, 1917: 15.
16 Grantland Rice, “Donovan’s Men Beaten Twice by the Browns,” New York Tribune, September 23, 1917: 19.
17 “Yanks Play for Plattsburg Men,” The Sun, September 24, 1917: 11.
18 “Howard Camp, Promising Outfielder, Called to Colors,” Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), March 26, 1918: 14.
19 “Officers are Sent from Ft. McPherson into Service,” Montgomery Advertiser, August 14, 1917: 3.
20 “Manager Huggins is Lucky,” Daily Record (Long Branch, New Jersey), January 3, 1919: 9.
21 Louis Silverthorne, “Toledo Troubles Over for a Time,” Indianapolis Star, April 13, 1919: 25.
22 William B. Ruggles, “Camp, A Newcomer, Was Leading Dutch Hoffman Four Points Before Last Week’s Games,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 27, 1920: 38.
23 “Hard-Hitting Camp Joins Tiger Players,” Los Angeles Evening Express, September 14, 1920: 25.
24 “Southern League History, Part 2,” Atlanta Constitution, March 10, 1943: 14.
25 Dan Harper, “Camp, Pep-Master of Reading Squad,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, April 14, 1925: 10.
26 “Howard Camp to Vols,” Miami Herald, July 18, 1925: 41.
27 Ralph McGill, “New Outfielder May Play in Tilt Today,” Nashville Banner, July 15, 1925: 13.
28 “Camp’s Hitting,” Nashville Banner, July 26, 1925: 13.
29 “Camp Goes Hitless for His First Time as Crackers Run Winning Streak Up to Seven,” (Nashville) Tennessean, August 2, 1925: 11.
30 Blinkey Horn, “Howard Camp Will Take Hot Springs Baths to Get in Flychasing Shape,” Tennessean, February 26, 1926: 13.
31 Blinkey Horn, “Vols Buy Polly McLarry to Take Custody of First Base,” Tennessean, March 16, 1926: 7.
32 “John Roser Moves Up Among Select Group,” Birmingham News, May 15, 1926: 8.
33 “Notes,” Selma (Alabama) Times Journal, August 8, 1925: 4.
34 “Gulley and Good Top S.A. Batters,” Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana), August 15, 1925: 7.
35 “Bears Stop Pels Again in Mobile,” Town Talk, June 21, 1926: 7.
36 Jake Wade, “Here’s One Happy Man,” Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer, March 30, 1927: 16.
37 Harry Griffin, “Howard Camp to Secure Release from Hornets,” Charlotte Observer, January 19, 1928: 18.
38 “Howard Camp Signs as Meridian Pilot,” Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), January 19, 1928: 10.
39 “Bobomen Again Beat Meridian,” Clarion-Ledger, August 8, 1928: 8.
40 “Agreement Reached with Howard Camp as Player-Manager,” Our Mountain Home, January 30, 1929: 3.
41 “’Shorty’ Holbrook Signs,” Our Mountain Home, March 27, 1929: 2.
42 “Camp-Emerson,” Our Mountain Home, July 3, 1929: 3.
43 “Nobles Defeat Indians 8 to 1 in Second Tilt; Long Hurls Nice Game,” Anniston Star, May 11, 1929: 6.
44 “Game’s Lure Too Strong,” Brooklyn Eagle, April 20: 1930: 37.
45 “More Players at Pine Bluff,” Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana), March 24, 1930: 8.
46 “More Snapshots,” Charlotte News, June 2, 1930: 10.
47 Hugh Frank Smith, “Munford News,” Our Mountain Home, March 29, 1933: 3.
48 “Old Southeastern Veteran Returns (but Howard Camp Comes Back as Umpire This Time),” Anniston Star, April 13, 1938: 8.
49 Fred Russell, “Sidelines,” Nashville Banner, February 13, 1948: 28.
50 “Notes,” Hattiesburg (Mississippi) American, August 28, 1950: 7.
51 “Seen and Heard about the City,” Hattiesburg American, June 25, 1948: 5.
52 “Escapes Fire,” Lansing (Michigan) State Journal, January 25, 1949: 10.
53 Knox Chamblin (Central High School Journalism Student), “Big League Scout Sees Good Material at Central,” Clarion-Ledger, May 7, 1952: 13.
55 “Professional Baseball Team,” Talladega (Alabama) Home, October 30, 1959: 6.
56 “Death Certificate: Howard Camp,” as supplied by Baseball Hall of Fame File: Howard Lee Camp.
57 “Howard Camp Passes at 66,” Anniston Star, May 10, 1960: 9.