Jim Beauchamp

This article was written by C. Paul Rogers III

Jim Beauchamp (ATLANTA BRAVES)

In high school in Grove, Oklahoma, Jim Beauchamp was a standout athlete in all sports. But in baseball, he really stood out and with his speed and power drew comparisons to another Oklahoma native son, Mickey Mantle.1 But injuries and bad luck deprived him of stardom and relegated him to a 10-year major-league career as a journeyman outfielder and pinch-hitter. After his playing career, he became a baseball lifer as a successful minor-league manager and major-league coach for the Atlanta Braves, spending a total of 50 years in the game. While doing so he became the only player to wear an Atlanta uniform in three Atlanta ballparks: Ponce de Leon Park (as a member of the Atlanta Crackers), Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium, and Turner Field.2

James Edward Beauchamp was born on August 21, 1939, in Vinita, Oklahoma, the youngest of three children to Dennis and Beulah Beatrice Hurst Beauchamp. His father was a lawyer who practiced law with his father, E.H. Beauchamp. Young Jim’s uncle gave him his first baseball glove, a Frankie Crosetti model, and his father early on taught him how to hit and field.3 The family moved to nearby Grove, where Jim starred in football, basketball, track, and baseball at Grove High School. In basketball the 6-foot-2 Beauchamp averaged 25.2 points a game as a senior. and was named to the All-State second team. He also finished second in the 100-yard dash in the state high-school track meet. In baseball his high-school team played few games, although he played enough to draw the Mantle comparisons.4 After graduating from high school, he attended Oklahoma State University for a semester in the fall of 1957, but the following spring signed a professional contract with the St. Louis Cardinals for a reported $50,000 bonus.5 Freddie Hawn, the scout who signed him, had also discovered Lindy McDaniel, Von McDaniel, and Kerry Don McDaniel, the three pitching brothers from Hollis, Oklahoma.6

The Cardinals organization thought enough of Beauchamp’s potential to send the 18-year-old to the York (Pennsylvania) White Roses in the Class-A Eastern League. Although one of the youngest players in the league, he hit .259 in 114 games in his debut year. That performance earned him a promotion to the Tulsa Oilers of the Double-A Texas League for the 1959 season. He improved slightly in the faster competition to .268 in 119 games and doubled his home-run total to 10 from the previous year’s five round-trippers. His biggest night by far was on August 29, when he hit for the cycle, went 5-for-5 and drove in five runs in a 15-3 Oilers win over the Victoria Rosebuds.7

After the season Beauchamp suffered the first of several serious injuries while playing in the Winter Instructional League in Florida. In a game in St. Petersburg he crashed head-first into a concrete wall while chasing a foul ball. Even though he had a helmet liner inside of his cap, he knocked himself out and ended up spending eight days in the hospital with a severe concussion.8

Perhaps in part due to the severity of that injury, Beauchamp returned in 1960 to Tulsa, where he batted .258 in 527 plate appearances with 12 home runs and 55 runs batted in. He also led the Texas League in stolen bases with 29, his second stolen-base title in a row.9 In July he smacked a home run in an exhibition game against the parent Cardinals before a record crowd of over 10,000 in Tulsa.10

Because of his power and speed, the Cardinals considered the 21-year-old Beauchamp a top prospect and invited him to 1961 spring training, where he duly impressed manager Solly Hemus.11 He didn’t stick with St. Louis, however, and split time between the San Juan/Charleston Marlins of the Triple-A International League and Tulsa. He struggled in Triple A, batting .227 in 73 games and 305 plate appearances, before ending up back with the Oilers. There he found his stroke, hitting .455 in 11 games before severely dislocating his shoulder while diving back into a base.12

The injury to Beauchamp’s shoulder eventually required surgery and did permanent damage to his throwing ability. He missed most of the 1962 season as a result, appearing in only 53 games for the Atlanta Crackers in the International League. In 180 plate appearances, Beauchamp hit .254 with five home runs.

He was back with Tulsa in 1963 and, still only 23 years old, he resurrected his career. In 137 games he hit .337 with 31 home runs and 105 runs batted in and led the Oilers to the playoff title, all of which led to his being named the Most Valuable Player in the Texas League.13 On May 30 Beauchamp drove in six runs with a home run, double, and two singles in the longest game in Texas League history, an 18-inning 9-8 Tulsa victory against the Albuquerque Dukes in a game that lasted 5 hours and 47 minutes.14 But his top performance during the season occurred on July 18, when he hit for the cycle with a single, double, triple, and two home runs to drive in seven runs in a 14-4 win over the El Paso Sun Kings.15 The Texas League All-Stars played the major-league Houston Colt .45s that year in their version of an All-Star game and Beauchamp won it for the minor leaguers, 7-3, with a walk-off two-out grand slam off Dick Drott in the bottom of the ninth.16 

Beauchamp had by then become a fan favorite in Tulsa; from 1961 until 1980 the large sign outside Oiler Park announcing the next Oiler home game was modeled after him in his hitting stance.17

Beauchamp’s 1963 performance in Tulsa earned him a late season call-up to the Cardinals, which was even more of a thrill because 1963 was Stan Musial’s last year and Musial had been Beauchamp’s boyhood idol.18 He struck out in his first at-bat, on September 22 against Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Reds in Crosley Field, pinch-hitting for Lew Burdette in the eighth inning of a 5-2 Cardinals loss. He also failed to record a hit in two more late-season pinch-hitting appearances, making him 0-for-3 in his brief big-league debut.

Beauchamp’s Texas League All-Star grand slam in 1963 had also attracted the attention of the Colt .45s, who traded outfielder Carl Warwick for him and pitcher Chuck Taylor in February 1964, just before the start of spring training.19 Beauchamp made the big-league team, in its third year of existence, out of spring training and was in the starting lineup for the second game of the season, against the Milwaukee Braves in Houston. After flying out to center field in his first at-bat, he stroked a double off Braves starter Denny Lemaster in his second trip to the plate for his first major-league hit, in a 6-5 Houston loss.

Although given a chance to play almost every day in left field, Beauchamp struggled at the plate and was hitting .185 on May 4 when he was sent down to Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League. Ironically, he smashed his first major-league home run the day before, against Fred Norman of the Chicago Cubs in a 5-3 Houston win.

Beauchamp quickly regained his batting stroke with the 89ers and slammed 34 homers in 128 games while hitting .285, earning a September call-up with the Colt .45s. One of his homers in Oklahoma was a towering blast that traveled so far out of All-Sports Stadium that it was never found.20 Back in the big leagues, Beauchamp again struggled, going 4-for-28 in 10 games. The highlight was a 2-for-5 day against the San Francisco Giants in Candlestick Park on September 29. After a line-drive single to left in the second, Beauchamp hit a home run in the top of the eighth off Giants starter Dick Estelle to tie the score at 3-3 in a game the Colt .45s lost 5-4 in 11 innings.21 For the season Beauchamp appeared in 23 games and batted only .164.

In spite of his major-league struggles in 1964, Beauchamp made the renamed Houston Astros in 1965 and was their Opening Day right fielder in a 2-0 loss to Chris Short and the Philadelphia Phillies. The right-handed hitter continued to get starts against southpaw starters and by early May had raised his average to .308. But he slumped again in part-time duty and by May 22 was down to .189 when the Astros pulled the plug and traded him and pitcher Ken Johnson to the Milwaukee Braves for outfielder Lee Maye.

The Braves immediately sent Beauchamp to their Atlanta Crackers farm club in the International League. There he batted .259 in 88 games, with 13 home runs. That was enough to earn him a mid-September call-up where he saw spot duty at first base and went 0-for-3 with a walk in four plate appearances.

Beauchamp was back in the International League in 1966 in Richmond, where the Braves had moved their top farm club. He was having a banner year there, heading to a potential triple crown, when with about a month left in the season he broke his wrist tagging a runner while playing first base.22 He was through for the year, finishing with a .319 batting average in 115 games with 25 homers and 77 runs batted in.

He made the now Atlanta Braves out of spring training in 1967 as a reserve first baseman and pinch-hitter, but was sent back to Richmond in early May after only four plate appearances. In Richmond, Jim became a teammate of Bobby Cox, and when they discovered that they were both born in Oklahoma, a close friendship followed that would last over 40 years, as they later worked closely together in both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves organizations.

Down on the farm, Beauchamp continued to hit for power, slugging 25 home runs in 96 games, although his batting average slipped to .233. After the season, the Braves traded him to the Cincinnati Reds along with outfielder Mack Jones and pitcher Jay Ritchie for third baseman Deron Johnson.

Still only 28 years old, Beauchamp began the 1968 season with the Indianapolis Indians, the Reds’ top minor-league affiliate. He played well there, hitting .291 in 80 games, earning a July call-up to the Reds. With Cincinnati he saw spot duty in center field against left-handed pitching and as a pinch-hitter, batting .263 in 31 games and 62 plate appearances. His two home runs both came against the Phillies’ ace left-hander Chris Short.

Although Beauchamp stuck with the Reds for the entire 1969 season, he was used sparingly, appearing in 43 games and batting .250 in 60 at-bats. After the season he was traded back to the Houston Astros for pitchers Pat House and Dooley Womack. With the Astros in 1970, he was used almost exclusively as a right-handed bat off the bench. After hitting .192 in 29 plate appearances, he was on the move again, going to the St. Louis Cardinals on June 13 with utilityman Leon McFadden in a deal for pitcher George Culver. With the Cardinals he hit .259 for the remainder of the year, also mostly as a pinch-hitter.

Beauchamp remained with St. Louis in 1971 and batted .235 in 77 games. After the season on October 21, his hometown of Grove, Oklahoma, had a day for him and named the high-school baseball field after the then 32-year-old. Beauchamp viewed that day as his greatest thrill in baseball.23

Two days earlier, Beauchamp had been traded again, this time to the New York Mets in an eight-player swap.24 The Mets would be his seventh and last stop in the major leagues as a player.25 He played sparingly for the 1972 Mets, who finished in third place in the National League’s East Division, batting .242 in 131 plate appearances. He showed that he still had some pop, however, hitting five home runs, a career high, and driving in 19 runs off the bench.

Beauchamp hit three of those home runs in a two-game span on August 21 and 22 against his old team, the Astros. On the 21st, he homered in the seventh against Jerry Reuss to put the Mets up 2-1. Then in the bottom of the ninth after the Astros had tied the score, Beauchamp slammed a walk-off two-run homer off Jim Ray to win for Jon Matlack and the Mets, 4-2. The next evening he went 3-for-4 off Dave Roberts with a home run, driving in all four runs in another 4-2 Mets victory. He again had the game-winning blow, a two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and complete his best two days in the major leagues.26

Beauchamp was back with the Mets in 1973 in what proved to be a memorable year for the team as it won the East Division with a mediocre 82-79 record before defeating the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series three games to two to sweep into the World Series against the Oakland A’s. Beauchamp was again a little-used bench player, batting .279 in 61 at-bats, with his best game against the Pirates on May 13 when he drove in four runs in a 6-4 Mets win. He did not appear in the NL Championship Series, but manager Yogi Berra called on him to pinch-hit four times in the World Series where he failed to get a hit as the Mets lost in seven games. His last major-league at-bat was as a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning of Game Seven. With the Mets already down 4-0, Beauchamp took a third strike looking against Ken Holtzman for the third out of the inning.27

Beauchamp went to spring training with the Mets in 1974, hoping for another year, but was released on March 27. At 35, he was not quite ready to hang up his spikes and signed a minor-league deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, who assigned him to be a player-coach back with Tulsa, a Triple-A team in the American Association. In 73 games and 266 plate appearances, Beauchamp hit only .216 for the Drillers, who nonetheless won the American Association West Division. His last hurrah, however, was an important one. In the playoffs against the Indianapolis Indians Beauchamp slugged a home run in the 15th inning of the sixth game to lead to a win.28 The Oilers also won Game Seven to claim the league championship. After the season, Beauchamp retired as a player.

Beset by injuries and might-have-beens, Beauchamp played all or parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues, hitting .231. In what amounted to a little more than a full season of play altogether with 661 at-bats, he hit 14 home runs and drove in 90 runs for his career.

Beauchamp, however, was far from through with baseball after 1974. St. Louis Cardinals general manager Bing Devine had pegged Jim as someone who would be an effective coach or manager, and with all the time he spent on the bench, he became a student of the game.29 After his coaching gig in Tulsa, which Devine had arranged, it didn’t take him long to nab a minor-league managing job because by the next season the Astros had called and asked him to manage their Double-A farm club in Columbus, Georgia. The following year, 1976, Beauchamp moved up to Triple A, managing the Memphis Blues in the International League to a third-place finish.

In 1977 the Astros moved their Triple-A club to Charleston, West Virginia, still in the International League, and Beauchamp moved with them. He led the Charlies to a second-place regular-season finish, two games out of first. In the playoffs, however, Charleston defeated the Tidewater Tides three games to one and then in the finals swept the Pawtucket Red Sox with four straight wins to claim the league championship. In 1978 Beauchamp led Charleston to the regular-season championship with an 85-55 record and was named Manager of the Year of the International League. The Charlies, however, lost in the league playoffs to the Richmond Braves.

The following year the Charlies slipped to sixth place and after the season, one year after his being named Manager of the Year, the Astros released him so that he could “pursue other opportunities.”30 That opportunity came in the Cincinnati Reds organization, which hired Beauchamp to manage their Indianapolis Indians Triple-A club in the American Association. After two sub-.500 years in Indianapolis, Beauchamp was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays to manage the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs in the International League for 1982. He managed the Chiefs for three seasons, finishing well under .500 each year. After his first season, in which the team finished sixth, he guaranteed a playoff team the next year or said he wouldn’t return.31 The team finished seventh in 1983 and he did return, without making any promises. In 1984 the Chiefs finished seventh again. He could take solace, however, because he had helped develop players like George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Fred McGriff, and Kelly Gruber, the core of outstanding Blue Jays teams in the ’80s and early ’90s.

Beauchamp’s reputation in player development led him back to the Braves organization where he managed their Double-A franchise in Greenville, North Carolina, for three years. In 1988 the Braves moved him back to Triple A with Richmond in the International League for what turned out to be another three-year stint. His 1989 squad was the regular-season champion of the league’s West Division and then defeated the Syracuse Chiefs in the playoffs to claim the league championship.

Beauchamp had the unusual distinction of managing his son in 1989. Kash Beauchamp had been selected by the Toronto Blue Jays as the overall number-one pick in the January 1982 draft and was a 26-year-old in this eighth season of professional baseball.32 The elder Beauchamp was known as a hard-nosed, old-school manager, and there is evidence that he was harder on his son than anyone else.33

After 16 years as a minor-league manager, the 52-year-old Beauchamp returned to the major leagues in 1991 with the Atlanta Braves as the bench coach for manager Bobby Cox. He became a fixture with the successful Braves teams of the ’90s, serving as Cox’s right-hand man. Along the way he won a World Series ring in 1995 as the Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians in six games. Even as coach, however, he couldn’t avoid the injury bugaboo. In 1992 he slipped getting off the team bus in New York and had to have knee surgery.34 Then in 1993 he suffered a serious eye injury when struck by a line drive off the bat of Bill Pecota in batting practice in St. Louis, crushing his cheekbone, breaking his orbital bone, and causing bleeding inside his eye.35

In 1998, after the Braves were eliminated in the NCLS, the team juggled the coaching staff and Beauchamp was reassigned as the organization’s minor-league outfield coordinator.36 He served in that position until spring training in 2007. It was his 50th consecutive spring training, but he began not feeling well and was shortly diagnosed with leukemia.37 He died from the disease later that year on Christmas day. He was 68 years old. Braves manager Bobby Cox, former general manager John Schuerholz, and outfielder Jeff Francoeur, whom Beauchamp had mentored as a young minor leaguer, all gave eulogies at the funeral.38 The Braves wore a memorial patch with “Beach” on the left sleeve of their jerseys in 2008 to honor his memory.39

Beauchamp was survived by his wife, Pam, and five children, three with his first wife, Judy (Kash, Tim, and Ann Rene), and two with Pam (Shanna and Lauren).40

Jim Beauchamp spent his life in baseball and was considered an old-school coach and manager who expected his players to give all-out effort all the time. If they didn’t, they would quickly hear about it in colorful language. He also had a soft side, and according to his son Kash his motto was put God first, family second, and one’s job third and everything will fall into place.41

 

Notes

1 Jeffrey Lutz, “Baseball Was the Beauchamps’ Link,” Wichita Eagle, July 6, 2008.

2 Chris Vivlamore, “Beauchamp, Ex-Braves Player and Coach, Dies,” Atlanta Constitution, December 28, 2007: D3.

3 “Word from the Dugout,” Atlanta Constitution, September 8, 1997: 25; Jamie M. Wise, “Diamond Jim,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 19, 1991: 186.

4 The baseball coach was also the football coach and thought track was a much better conditioner for football than baseball, and so scheduled few games. John Cronley, “Once Over Lightly,” Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), May 21, 1964: 27.

5 Clark Nealon, “Jim Brings Big Bat, No Arm in Sling,” Houston Post, March 1, 1964.

6 Cronley.

7 David King and Tom Kayser, The Texas League Almanac (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2014).

8 While in the hospital, Beauchamp’s head was “sandbagged” so that he could not move it at all. Wilt Browning, “Beauchamp Hits End of Trail?” Atlanta Journal, May 8, 1967; Wayne Minshew, “Gomez’ Arm Okay, Hopes to Help Phils,” Atlanta Constitution, March 27, 1967: 17.

9 Bill O’Neal, The Texas League 1888-1987 — A Century of Baseball (Austin: The Eakin Press, 1987), 314.

10 The game was played on July 28 with Tulsa losing 12-5. Wayne McCombs, “Let’s Goooooooo Tulsa” — The History and Record Book of Professional Baseball in Tulsa, Oklahoma — 1905-1989 (Self-published, 1990), 453.

11 In the middle of spring training, Hemus was quoted as saying, “If this kid makes it, we go all the way. And from what I’ve seen so far, he’s ready.” Barney Kremenko, “Rookie Center Is Both Fleet and Powerful,” New York Journal-American, March 11, 1961.

12 Cronley. Another source indicates he separated his shoulder while chasing a fly ball and running into a wall in Tulsa. Hal Hayes, “Lady Luck Frowns on Jim Beauchamp,” Atlanta Constitution, April 11, 1967.

13 McCombs, “Let’s Goooooooo Tulsa,” 140. He led the team in every offensive category except stolen bases, where he was second on the team. 

14 King and Kayser, 74.

15 King and Kayser, 134.

16 Clark Nealon, “Craft Pleased With Card Trade, And Zesty About Colt Training,” Houston Post, February 18, 1964; Mickey Herskowitz, “.45s Get Beauchamp, Taylor for Warwick,” Houston Post, February 18, 1964; King and Kayser, 152.

17 Matt Gleason, “You’re Out at the Old Ball Game,” Tulsa World, May 17, 2010.

18 Volney Meece, “34 HRs Ex-89er’s No. 1 Memory,” Daily Oklahoman, July 4, 1969: 27.

19 Nealon; Herskowitz.

20 The ball was hit to center field at twilight and no one ever saw it come down. And no one could find the ball beyond the fence. Bob Burke, Baseball in Oklahoma City (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 61; see also Meece.

21 Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese to play in the major leagues, was the winning pitcher for his first big-league victory with three innings of one-hit relief.

22 Wayne Minshew, “For Jim Beauchamp, 1967 Is the Year of Decision,” Atlanta Constitution, March 3, 1967: 57; Hayes.

23 Unidentified and undated clipping from the Jim Beauchamp clippings file, National Baseball Library.

24 Beauchamp was traded with pitchers Chuck Taylor and Harry Parker and infielder Chip Coulter for outfielder Art Shamsky and pitchers Jim Bibby, Rich Folkers, and Charlie Hudson. Joe Trimble, “Mets Swap Shamsky and 3 for Cards’ Quartet,” New York Daily News, October 19, 1971: 74.

25 The number is eight if one counts the Milwaukee Braves’ move to Atlanta in 1966 while Beauchamp was a member of the Braves organization. 

26 On October 4, the last day of the season, Beauchamp again had the winning hit, a two-run homer off Balor Moore of the Montreal Expos in the sixth inning. The blow broke a 1-1 tie and proved decisive in a 3-1 Mets victory. 

27 Beauchamp also popped out to second baseman Dick Green in the ninth inning in Game One, reached on an error by pitcher Darold Knowles in Game Two, and, batting for Tom Seaver, lined out to left fielder Joe Rudi against Knowles in Game Three. 

28 Wayne McCombs, Baseball in Tulsa (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 48.

29 Meece.

30 Unidentified clipping dated October 20, 1979, from the Jim Beauchamp clippings file, National Baseball Library. 

31 Bob Hill, “Beauchamp Has Sense of Satisfaction Despite Sad Season,” Syracuse Herald American, July 22, 1984.

32 Kash Beauchamp played all or parts of 14 years in the minor leagues and managed in independent ball. He was having an outstanding year with Knoxville and then Syracuse in 1986 when he suffered a broken scapula on a collision at home plate, which put him out for the season. He later learned that he was to be promoted to the Toronto Blue Jays the following day. He never played in the major leagues. Lutz.

33 Lutz; Volney Meece, untitled article, Daily Oklahoman, July 2, 1989.

34 “Beauchamp Injured,” Atlanta Constitution, August 31, 1992: 30.

35 Mitch Sneed, “Beauchamp Had Little Reaction Time for Foul Ball,” Atlanta Constitution, July 15, 1993: 151.

36 Thomas Stinson, “Shake-Up: Jones, Beauchamp Out as Braves Juggle Coaching Staff,” unidentified and undated article from the Jim Beauchamp clippings file, National Baseball Library.

37 Carroll Rogers, “Beauchamp Beloved in Braves Family — Coach Being Treated for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.” Atlanta Constitution, April 19, 2007.

38 Lutz.

39 “Patch on Sleeve Salutes Beauchamp,” Atlanta Constitution, April 1, 2008: D5.

40 Vivlamore.

41 Ibid.


Full Name

James Edward Beauchamp

Born

August 21, 1939 at Vinita, OK (USA)

Died

December 25, 2007 at Union City, GA (USA)

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