Floyd (“Jack”) Farmer, baseball and football star at Cumberland University (Lebanon, Tennessee), was the only player in the first 135 years of the major leagues to hail from that institution.1 Farmer enjoyed a solid debut as a second-half starter for the sixth-place 1916 Pittsburgh Pirates, and as an occasional double-play partner of 42-year-old Honus Wagner.2 Two years later, Farmer experienced a terrible and truncated second act with the Cleveland Indians before becoming a nearly-decade-long outlaw player in Kentucky and various non-sanctioned leagues.
Floyd Haskell Farmer was born on July 14, 1892, in Granville, Tennessee, near Lebanon, to George Washington Farmer, a schoolteacher and later a minister, and Virginia Porter Ferguson. It was the second marriage for both. Floyd had two older and two younger brothers as well as one half-sister. By the turn of the century, the family moved to Navarro, Texas (near Corsicana). Young Floyd eventually returned to Tennessee, becoming a football and baseball star at Cumberland University from 1912-1914. Farmer’s baseball squad even beat the University of Tennessee in April 1913, with the game report proclaiming that “Farmer’s fielding was the best feature of the game. The big third sacker fields cleanly and heaves like a [Nap] Lajoie.”3
In April 1914 Farmer manned center field in a Cumberland loss to Benn Karr and Union University, from nearby Jackson, Tennessee.4 A month later the right-handed throwing and hitting Farmer became a professional baseball player, signing with the Selma (Alabama) Centralites of the fledgling second-year Class D Georgia-Alabama League. He hit .302 in 69 games for Selma, who won the league by three games over the Newnan (Georgia) Cowetas, with Farmer being considered by many as the best second baseman in the circuit.5 During the off-season he returned to Texas, living in the town of Italy (south of Fort Worth).6 By year end, Farmer, now commonly referred to as “Jack,” made a big leap, signing with the Nashville Volunteers of the Class A Southern Association.7
Referred to as the “big strapping fellow,” Farmer stood six feet tall and weighed 180 pounds, reminding some Southern Association fans of Wally Smith, former second baseman for Atlanta.8 Farmer was worked out in Nashville’s 1915 camp as an outfielder, even though he had only played infield up until that point. He made the squad and a good early impression, rapping out an inside-the-park homer against Jack Lively and Little Rock on April 25.9 On May 31, Farmer “put spurs to his mount and hurled himself across the plate,” scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 17th in a victory over Atlanta.10 Farmer hit .263 in 157 games with the Volunteers. After the season, it was reported that centerfielder Farmer was drafted by the Chicago Cubs.11 However, he ended up signing with the Louisville Colonels of the Class AA American Association, following his Nashville manager, Bill Schwartz, who had been named Louisville’s business manager.
The “Lebanon larruper” 12 Farmer started the season as a utility outfielder for Louisville, but when left-fielder Bert Daniels suffered an ankle injury on April 21, Farmer got his chance.13 He made the most of it, getting off to a strong start as the leadoff batter and leftfielder. Daniels’ recovery shortly thereafter gave Louisville skipper Bill Clymer four solid outfielders and a dilemma over who would get playing time in the outfield.14 Farmer continued to play regularly, and his tendency to swat extra base hits had him batting fourth and still playing left field by late May.15 He slumped badly in June, however, and ended up hitting only .253 in 48 games. Nonetheless, in early July, following a personal visit to Pittsburgh by Louisville skipper Bill Clymer, Pittsburgh Pirates president Barney Dreyfuss traded outfielder Ed Barneyto Louisville for Farmer.16
Like he did in Louisville, Farmer hit the ground running in Pittsburgh. Farmer’s first game and start for manager Jimmy Callahan occurred on July 8 against the New York Giants. In his debut, Farmer’s “first effort was a line wallop that bore every ear-mark of a home run, but (Benny) Kauff stretched his mitt into the atmosphere and made one of the most amazing one-hand catches of the season.”17 Still, Farmer began his career 7-for-15 (.467) in his first four games. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quickly hailed Farmer as conducting himself “generally like the most promising player Pittsburgh has had for a few years.”18 Callahan switched Farmer from the outfield back to his original second base.19 The Nashville Tennessean commented that Farmer “is a much larger man than is usually selected for second base play. However, he handles himself in fine fashion about the bag, and has been covering considerably more ground than either Jimmy Viox or Joe Schultz, his immediate predecessors.”20
Farmer unfortunately made three errors in a July 29 doubleheader against the New York Giants, but continued to play regularly into mid-August. On August 16, the impetuous Farmer injured himself while jumping off a moving train in the Steel City, suffering multiple cuts and bruises and costing him 10 days out of the lineup.21 Farmer ended up hitting .271 in 55 games for the Pirates, yet also committed 15 errors in the field. Though the Pirates used several second basemen in 1916, Baseball-Reference lists Farmer as the Pirates main second baseman based on his regular appearance at that position from mid-July through August.
In the off-season, the Pirates traded Farmer and infielder Wes “Paddy” Siglin to the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League for shortstop Chuck Ward.22 Speculation arose that this swap was a return of a favor from Pittsburgh to Beavers President W.W. McCredie for the signing the prior summer of budding star Carson Bigbee from the Tacoma (Washington) Tigers of the Northwestern League. McCredie had originally sent Bigbee from Portland to Tacoma.23
Farmer hit .286 over 193 games for the Beavers in 1917. He had 213 hits, including 50 doubles, 12 triples and eight home runs. After the season, Farmer married Laura Demoss, who was born in Kentucky. Farmer’s 1917 war draft registration listed him as a married ballplayer in Portland, but no record is shown of him serving in the military.
The next season witnessed the convoluted drama unfold as to who actually owned Jack Farmer.
In January 1918, Portland owner McCredie agreed to sell Farmer to the Cleveland Indians for $2,500 and a to-be-negotiated tryout period. However, Portland was not to field a PCL team in 1918, so McCredie instead sent Farmer to the Salt Lake Bees, also with the PCL. Farmer would play for Walter “Judge” McCredie, W.W.’s uncle, who had just left Portland after 13 years to manage Salt Lake. By April, Cleveland Indians president Jim Dunn was demanding Farmer from Salt Lake, claiming he had acquired Farmer via trade for pitcher Al Gould.24
In late June, the National Commission awarded Farmer to Cleveland.25 The Bees held onto Farmer as long as they could, due to illnesses and war draft personnel losses on their squad.26 Farmer’s last game for Salt Lake, on July 7, was pitcher Pop-Boy Smith’s first for the Bees, and Farmer’s only known pitching appearance. With two out in the seventh inning, and 15 runs already scored by Sacramento in that frame alone, Farmer “grabb[ed] the ball, ran into the box and struck out the third man to end the agony.” Farmer then worked a scoreless eighth and ninth, which made him the only Bee hurler not to allow a run, in a 23-5 drubbing by Sacramento.27 The next day, Farmer embarked for Cleveland.28
Farmer had appeared in 85 games for Salt Lake, hitting .269 with 35 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases. He often batted third in the line-up. The versatile Farmer played center field for the Bees, but not very well, as his fielding percentage placed him near the bottom of regular PCL outfielders.29
Farmer’s debut with Cleveland was a flop. Entering the game as a defensive replacement in right field on July 16, he “dropped an easy chance and let the winning run score” in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Washington Senators.30 The Washington Times wrote that, on a Joe Judge liner, Farmer “tried to take it on the fly. He didn’t. He dropped the pill, which was coming fast, and then let it go through him, with the winning run scoring. Tris Speaker…was so surprised that he stood transfixed, gazing at Floyd Farmer.”31
In his only start for the Indians on July 26, Farmer committed two errors while still having “that case of buck fever.”32After dropping “too many fly balls”33 over three games on defense, the Indians “found him so far below expectations that he was returned to the Salt Lake club.”34 However, the PCL had already suspended operations by mid-July, so Farmer didn’t play professionally again in 1918.
Curiously, even Salt Lake president Bill Lane acknowledged that Farmer and Siglin were still considered the property of Portland.35 So, once Portland again fielded a PCL team for 1919, the duo returned to Oregon, as did skipper McCredie. During the off-season, Farmer had become very ill with influenza while working on his mother-in-law’s 500-acre timber farm in Ashbyburg, Kentucky, leaving him very weak. He threatened to quit ball, but “came back to help Walter McCredie in his efforts to build up a new club this year because of his affection for the big Portland manager.”36
Farmer hit .276 in 97 games for the Beavers in 1919. In June, Farmer again became very ill, and had his tonsils removed, losing over a month of playing time in recovery.37 Farmer announced in September he was going to quit in two weeks to return to farming and probably retire from baseball.38 He needed to build some form of shelter on the Kentucky property. Asked if he would return to Portland next year, Farmer remarked: “There is no money in minor league baseball…it gives you a living, but that is about all.”39
Farmer refused to come back out West for the 1920 season.40 Owner McCredie finally agreed to sell Farmer to the Detroit Tigers. After Farmer cleared waivers, the Tigers assigned him to his former Nashville team, near Farmer’s current home.41
By June, the headlines in Nashville read “Jack Farmer Kangaroos Volunteers to Dyersburg Club.”42 Farmer became the fourth Volunteer to “jump” the team that season.43 Farmer joined an outlaw team in Dyersburg, Kentucky, managed by Red Smith, a former Cumberland University teammate. Dyersburg won the Tennessee-Kentucky semipro title in 1921, with Farmer as captain and Tommy “Doc” Prothro at shortstop.44 As Dyersburg was deemed “outlaw territory,” Farmer was placed on the ineligible list by Commissioner Landis.45
In 1923 Farmer managed the Jackson (Tennessee) Independents, with Gene Paulette, the first major leaguer banished from Organized Baseball by Commissioner Landis, as his first baseman.46 In 1924 Farmer applied for reinstatement to Organized Baseball, but was rebuffed by Minor Leagues Secretary John Farrell. Farrell did keep the door open, however, for Farmer to reapply in 1925.47 Farmer played for Shenandoah and Mahanoy City teams in the coal area of Pennsylvania in 1924 and early 1925. Later in 1925, he moved to the outlaw Wisconsin-Indiana League, where in July he hit two home runs in an inning for Kenosha.48 He soon signed with Racine, with Jake Pitler as a teammate, and later played with Sheboygan in the same league through 1927. Jimmy Hamilton, manager of Nashville, the team which still owned Farmer’s Organized Baseball rights, tried to have Farmer reinstated, with Landis’ office stating that the player would be reinstated if he stayed “out of baseball for a year.”49 In 1928 Farmer, then 36, worked on his new cotton farm in Girard, Louisiana, hoping to find oil, while adhering to Landis’s terms.
Nashville agreed to sign Farmer, and pay the $250 fee, if he were reinstated after nearly nine years out of organized ball.50 After being reinstated by Landis in March 1929, Farmer was nonetheless cut by Nashville in training camp.51 He moved to the Birmingham Barons, also of the Southern Association, exacting revenge on Nashville with three hits on Opening Day. The Birmingham News crowed: “Only four weeks ago they chased Farmer away from the Sulphur Dell [Nashville’s home field] for being too old to play ball. He must have been in his second childhood Tuesday.”52 Farmer, however, was soon released by the Barons and joined the Meridian (Mississippi) Mets of the Class D Cotton States League (CSL). By summer, Farmer joined the El Dorado (Arkansas) Lions, also in the CSL. Farmer and El Dorado won the CSL championship over Jackson (Mississippi), with Jackie Reid getting credited with all four playoff victories for manager George Jackson. Farmer, Jackson, and El Dorado made the CSL playoffs again in 1930 but were swept by Pine Bluff. In his last season in professional baseball, the 39-year-old Farmer returned to the CSL championships a third time in 1931, this time with Vicksburg, in a loss to Jackson.
Farmer retired from baseball to become a full-time farmer back in Louisiana, where he lived the rest of his life. He also worked as a store owner/manager, according to the 1950 census. Floyd “Jack” Farmer, age 77, died on May 21, 1970, at Caldwell Parish Hospital in Columbia, Louisiana, after a lengthy illness.53 He was survived by wife Laura, brother Paul and half-sister Ruby, and is buried at the New Salem Cemetery in Girard, Louisiana.
This biography was fact-checked by Tom Reinsfelder. Special thanks to Bill Lamb and Rick Zucker, who reviewed the copy and added insightful material.
In addition to the sources shown in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, StatsCrew.com, and MyHeritage.com
1 Farmer was the only major-league player from Cumberland University until Luis Martinez in 2011, followed by Aaron Wilkerson in 2017 (as of 2022).
2 The box score for the Pittsburgh-Brooklyn game on July 22, 1916, shows a 4-6-3 double play, from Farmer to Wagner to W. Johnston. Pittsburgh Press, July 23, 1916: 21.
3 “Cumberland Wins from Tennessee,” Nashville Banner, April 19, 1913: 7.
4 “Union Takes the First of Series,” Nashville Banner, April 8, 1914: 10.
5 Carey J. Ayers, “Astronomy and All-Star Teams; Wherein a Roman Takes a Flight” Anniston (Alabama) Star, August 30, 1914: 3.
6 “Floyd Farmer Signs with Vols,” Nashville Tennessean, February 9, 1915: 9.
7 Bob Pigue, “Jack Farmer is Latest Vol,” Nashville Banner, November 30, 1914: 8. The origins of the nickname “Jack” are not known.
8 “Floyd Farmer Signs with Vols.” The article spells Wally Smith’s first name as Wallie.
9 Blinkey Horn, “Jack Farmer Raps Out Homer Inside Park Off Lively,” Nashville Tennessean, April 26, 1915: 8.
10 Blinkey Horn, “Dodge’s Single Gives Longest Game of Season to Vols,” Nashville Tennessean, June 1, 1915: 10.
11 “Jack Farmer to Be a Cub in 1916,” Nashville Banner, September 21, 1915: 15.
12 Bob Pigue, “Notes of the Diamond,” Nashville Banner, February 21, 1916: 7.
13 Sam H. McMeekin, “Clymerites Win on Cold Field,” Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) (hereafter Louisville Courier-Journal), April 22, 1916: 8.
14 “Rain Prevents Opener with Tebeau’s Blues,” Louisville Courier-Journal, April 27, 1916: 7.
15 Norman W. Baxter, “Wind, Rain and Slow Pitching Lessen Joy of Local Victory,” Louisville Courier-Journal, May 28, 1916: 36.
16 “Notes,” Pittsburgh Press, July 3, 1916: 16; “Colonels Get Barney in Trade for Farmer,” Louisville Courier-Journal, July 4, 1916: 7.
17 Ed F. Balinger, “Buccaneer Bingles and Bunts,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 9, 1916: 18.
18 Charles J. Doyle, “Pirates Beat Braves, 3-2; Farmer Stars,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 12, 1916: 10.
19 Ralph S. Davis, “Outfielder Farmer May Be Shifted to Second Base by Pirate Manager,” Pittsburgh Press, July 12, 1916: 24.
20 Blinkey Horn, “Today Soldiers at Camp Rye Will Be Guests at the Dell,” Nashville Tennessean, July 27, 1916: 14.
21 “Jack Farmer Hurt,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, August 17, 1916: 11.
22 “Floyd Farmer Traded to Portland Club,” Louisville Courier-Journal, January 20, 1917: 7.
23 “M’Credie Worries Over Initial Sack,” Honolulu (Hawaii) Advertiser, January 22, 1917: 12.
24 “Cleveland Club Demands Farmer from S.L. Team,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 12, 1918: 8.
25 “Cleveland Given Bee Outfielder by Commission,” Salt Lake Telegram, June 21, 1918: 10.
26 “Diamond Dust,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 2, 1918: 4.
27 And the Score Was 23 to 5, Quoth Bill Rogers Chuckling,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 8, 1918: 6.
28 “Notes,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 7, 1918: 20.
29 “Fielding Records,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 2, 1918: 8.
30 “Cleveland Club Has No Use for Jack Farmer,” San Francisco (California) Chronicle, August 21, 1918: 10.
31 Louis A. Dougher, “Ban Johnson and Charlie Comiskey are Here to Explain Need of Game,” Washington Times, July 17, 1918: 14.
32 “Good News Puts Real Pep into Indian Outfit,” Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, July 27, 1918: 12.
33 “Farmer Fails to Stick in Majors; Cleveland Turns Him Back to Bees,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 8, 1918: 4.
34 “Farmer Proved ‘Farmer,’” El Paso (Texas) Herald, August 29, 1918: 7.
35 “McCredie to Again Pilot Bees on Field Next Year,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City), December 28, 1918: 43.
36 “Diamond Dust,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 16, 1919: 4.
37 “Jack Farmer Will Be in Game Next Week,” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland), June 28, 1919: 8.
38 “Penner Proves an Easy Victor,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 4, 1919: 12.
39 “Penner Proves an Easy Victor.”
40 “Notes,” Salt Lake Telegram, December 3, 1919: 3.
41 Blinkey Horn, “Jack Farmer to be Vol if Majors Will Waiver Him Out,” Nashville Tennessean, March 15, 1920: 7.
42 Blinkey Horn, “Jack Farmer Kangaroos Volunteers to Dyersburg Club,” Nashville Tennessean, June 6, 1920: 13.
43 “Farmer Jumps Ellam’s Vols,” Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock), June 7, 1920: 7.
44 “Dyersburg Club Wins Semi-Pro Ball Title,” Nashville Tennessean, September 5, 1921: 6.
45 Blinkey Horn, “Vols Seek Answer to Puzzle Made by Landis,” Nashville Tennessean, February 2, 1922: 8.
46 “Notes,” Paducah (Kentucky) Sun-Democrat, May 8, 1923: 8.
47 Blinkey Horn, “Farrell Ignores Reinstatement Plea Which Was Made by Jack Farmer,” Nashville Tennessean, March 27, 1924: 10.
48 “Jack Farmer Equals Home Run Record,” Daily News (Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania), July 24, 1925: 7.
49 Ralph McGill, “The Sport Aerial,” Nashville Banner, January 14, 1927: 13.
50 Blinkey Horn, “Vols Will Hire Farmer Again After 9 Years if Landis Cleans His Record,” Nashville Tennessean, March 5, 1929: 8.
51 Blinkey Horn, “Pants Rowland Hands Release to Jack Farmer and Eddie Ries,” Nashville Tennessean, March 23, 1929: 13.
52 Zipp Newman, “Black Proves Star Along with Farmer,” Birmingham (Alabama) News, April 17, 1929: 16.
53 “F.H. ‘Jack’ Farmer,” Richland Beacon-News (Rayville, Louisiana), May 30, 1970: 1.
Floyd Haskell Farmer
July 14, 1892 at Granville, TN (USA)
May 21, 1970 at Columbia, LA (USA)
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