Lou Novikoff (TRADING CARD DB)

Lou Novikoff

This article was written by Stephen V. Rice


Lou Novikoff (TRADING CARD DB)In professional baseball from 1937 to 1950, Lou Novikoff batted .337 in the minors and .282 in parts of five major-league seasons. Ted Williams called him “a great natural hitter.”1 Novikoff also excelled in fast-pitch softball, as a hitter and a pitcher. A softball promoter gave him a colorful nickname, “The Mad Russian.” Novikoff was of Russian descent, but he was not mad. He was a jovial, happy-go-lucky guy with a big smile. “I ain’t mad at nobody,” he said.2 But he was amusingly eccentric, a genuine madcap.

His baseball skillset could be said to be as eccentric as his personality; he struggled on defense but consistently hit for average and power. He was a notorious “bad-ball” hitter; teammates and opponents alike marveled at his ability to punish pitches outside the strike zone while missing pitches right over the plate.

Novikoff’s story begins with his ancestry. In 19th-century Russia, non-Orthodox Christians, including a sect known as the Molokane, were forced to relocate to the borderlands of the Russian empire. The Pryguny, a subsect of the Molokane, settled in the empire’s Erevan province, which is in present-day Armenia. About 1900, two Prygun teens married; Alex Novikoff was 15 years old and his bride Julia was 14.3 Seeking economic opportunity and freedom from religious persecution,4 Alex, Julia, and their two sons migrated with hundreds of Pryguny to Los Angeles, 1905-06.5 “Give us work in your country, and let us worship as we believe, and we ask for no more,” said a Molokan immigrant.6 About 1912, by then with five children, Alex and Julia relocated with other Prygun families to farmland in Glendale, Arizona, where they grew cotton and sugar beets.

There is no disputing that Julia gave birth to Lou Novikoff in Glendale, but there is disagreement regarding his name and birthdate. According to a military draft registration he filled out in 1940, his name was “Louie Novikoff” with no middle name, and his birthdate was October 12, 1915.7 However, when the Cyrillic inscription on his tombstone is translated, we learn that his Russian name was Ilya Alexandrovich Novikov. Below the inscription is his American name, “Louis A. Novikoff.” He appears in baseball record books as Louis Alexander Novikoff. His draft registration and tombstone agree on his birthdate. But a US Census record indicates he was 12 years old on April 30, 1930, which means he may have been born in 1917 or 1918. His birth month and day can also be questioned. “Molokan parents seldom remember the exact dates of the birth of their children”; birthdays were not celebrated.8

The Pryguny were devout pacifists. The Glendale colony kept to itself but made headlines in June 1917 when it refused government demands for young men to register for the draft during World War I. Thirty-seven resisters were arrested and jailed. One hundred colonists protested at a court proceeding and revealed why Pryguny were called “Spiritual Jumpers.”9 Men and women shouted and “while in a rhythmic whirl they individually jumped about. … Performed in unison, the effect was to almost rock the building.”10 It is not known whether Alex Novikoff was one of those jailed, but on September 12, 1918, Prygun men relented and registered for the draft and Alex was among them.11 He was not drafted.

The Glendale colony suffered economically from the collapse of cotton prices in 1921.12 With eight children, Alex and Julia returned to Los Angeles, where they would have four more offspring.13 Alex died of pneumonia in November 1928,14 and with the coming of the Great Depression, Julia had her hands full.

The Novikoffs lived in the Flats district of Boyle Heights, just east of downtown Los Angeles. Known as Russian Town, it was at the time the largest Russian settlement in the United States.15 In 1930, there may have been as many as 5,000 Pryguny living there.16 It was an urban environment with many factories, far from the sect’s agrarian past.

Growing up in this setting, Lou Novikoff was Russian and American. One of his contemporaries explained:

“You see, we young people live in two worlds, and learn the ways of both worlds—the ways of our parents and the ways of the big world. Sometimes we get mixed up and we fight, we fight our parents and we fight the big world. Sometimes I feel I am not much of an American. I was raised by Russians, I understand Russians, I like the Russians. At other times, I think that I am not much of a Russian; except to my parents, I never speak Russian, and all my friends are American.”17

When Novikoff was old enough, he was expected to work. A work permit could be obtained at age 14, and it was common for parents to fudge a child’s birthdate so that the child could begin work sooner.18 This may account for Novikoff’s age discrepancy.

Outside of work, time was spent in religious activities. Many young people, and especially Novikoff and his brothers, were interested in sports. The Prygun elders, who wore long beards, believed sports offered nothing more than “occasions to idle away a lot of valuable time.” “We can hardly imagine that so many intelligent people are interested in ball games,” said one elder. “Ball-playing does not help you in life.”19 Years later, Novikoff remarked, “They don’t play baseball in Russia. … [They know] only work and drudgery.”20

In April 1930, Novikoff was mentioned in Los Angeles newspapers for winning a free-throw shooting contest — he made 54 of 60 attempts — and for his outstanding pitching on the Fifth Street Drug Store baseball team.21 In the baseball article, he is referred to as “twelve-year-old Louis Neva.” (This supports the theory that he was born in 1917 or 1918.) In sports, he and his brothers used an alias; they were the “Neva” brothers.

Novikoff left home in the spring of 1932 and went to Bakersfield, California. There he attended Kern County Union High School and pitched for a men’s softball team representing the Ralph Smith Grocery.22 He was in his mid-teens but he was a husky lad (he would grow to 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds as an adult23) and his pitching was extraordinary. On May 20, he threw a seven-inning no-hitter with 20 strikeouts.24 Eleven days later, he threw another no-hitter; in this one, he went 12 innings and struck out 23.25 And on June 20, in front of 6,000 fans — “the greatest crowd ever to watch a ball game in Kern county” — Novikoff pitched a nine-inning, one-hit shutout with 20 strikeouts, and he hit two triples and a home run.26 He was a right-handed pitcher and a right-handed hitter.

It may be difficult to imagine 6,000 people attending a softball game, but the popularity of the sport, and of young Novikoff in particular, was clear. Games were typically played at night; the phrase “night ball” was synonymous with softball. Fans were willing to pay a modest admission price to be entertained under the lights. And Novikoff discovered he could get paid to play a game he loved.

At his mother’s request, Novikoff returned home in the fall of 1932 and attended Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. In 1933 and 1934, with his older brother Paul in the outfield, Novikoff played for the Torrance Bluebirds softball team and was a sensation as a pitcher and a hitter. Newspapers reported that his “blinding speed dazzled” opposing hitters (he also had a deceptive change of pace) and that he was the “Babe Ruth” of night ball, hitting 22 home runs in a span of 29 games.27

On February 23, 1934, Novikoff married Esther Volkoff. A native of California, she, too, was a child of Russian immigrants and a member of the Prygun community in Los Angeles. Like Novikoff, she spoke Russian and English.

In the spring of 1935, Novikoff tried out for a professional baseball team, the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League (PCL). He was 17 at the time, he later said, which again suggests he was born in 1917 or 1918.28 He hit well but fielded poorly and did not make the team.29 In June 1935, he joined the Huntington Beach Oilers softball team. There were 5,061 paid admissions to see him pitch on September 17, 1935. He threw a five-hitter and belted two doubles and a triple in an 8-1 Oilers victory.30

Joseph Warrington “Joe” Rodgers was the Oilers’ 35-year-old playing manager. He would become a lifelong friend and mentor of Novikoff. The 5-foot-5 Rodgers was a “peppery little infielder.”31 It was he who billed Novikoff as “the Mad Russian,” to entice fans to come out and see the phenom pitch for the Oilers.32 And it was Rodgers who got Novikoff a tryout with the PCL’s Los Angeles Angels in the spring of 1937.33

Novikoff signed with the Angels, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, and was farmed out to the Ponca City (Oklahoma) Angels of the Class C Western Association. He played the outfield and made many errors (18) but impressed with his hitting. He collected 16 home runs and 112 RBIs in 124 games and was second in the league with a .351 batting average.

In 1938 Novikoff was assigned to the Moline (Illinois) Plow Boys of the Class B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. He was the league’s most dominant hitter, leading the circuit in hits (186), triples (23), RBIs (114), and batting average (.367). He was second in home runs (19) though he played home games in the league’s largest ballpark. The left-field fence at Moline’s Browning Field was 500 feet from home plate.34

Novikoff was a left fielder for the Plow Boys, and his 17 errors during the season confounded his manager, Mike Gazella. At Moline on June 23, 1938, in the first game of a doubleheader, a groundball caromed off Novikoff’s shins and bounded into foul territory, allowing two runners to score. Gazella was so perturbed that he removed Novikoff from the game. But how could he keep his best hitter out of the lineup? In the second game, Novikoff blasted a mammoth 450-foot home run over the center-field fence.35

On September 11, 1938, Novikoff recorded two assists in left field, including a splendid throw home to nab a runner.36 Lynn Callaway, sports editor of the Moline Dispatch, said Novikoff “has the best throwing arm we’ve seen on an outfielder in a long time.”37 Novikoff later “won a throwing contest with a heave of 386 feet 6 inches, with the ball landing no more than three feet from the platter.”38

Novikoff and his wife welcomed their first child, daughter Marilyn June, in November 1938. He began the 1939 season with Los Angeles, but the Angels had too many outfielders. To give him consistent playing time, he was farmed out first to the Milwaukee Brewers and then to the Tulsa Oilers of the Class A-1 Texas League. He led that league with a .368 batting average and returned to the Angels in August, with whom he batted .452 in 36 games. It was quite a season. The Sporting News selected him as the Minor League Player of the Year,39 and Cubs scout Dutch Ruether called him “the greatest natural right-hand hitter in baseball today.”40

Novikoff lashed line drives to all fields. He used his “powerfully developed forearms” and hit with “tremendous wrist action.”41 He was a “bad-ball” hitter, as sportswriter Bob Ray explained:

“In one game with the Angels last year, he reached about a foot over his head to hit one on a line to right center for a double and later picked one off the ground and belted it against the left center wall. Bill Walker, Seattle southpaw, decided to loosen up Novikoff by tossing one at his noggin. Louie bent back and stiff-armed a terrific line drive that hit Walker on the shoulder.”42

“If I can get to ’em with a bat, they ain’t bad balls no more,” said Novikoff.43 When asked how he would pitch to himself, he replied, “Do you think I want to commit suicide? That mound is too close for me to be with a guy like me hitting. I might kill myself with a line drive through the box.”44

A colorful extrovert, Novikoff liked to kid with the fans. “Louie would miss a terrific swing and, when the opposing fans would boo, the big fellow would turn around, tip his cap to them and then point where he was going to hit the next pitch.”45 “His good-natured jibes with the fans always brought forth laughter and added much to the day’s program.”46

According to Novikoff, his wife heckled him from the stands when he came to bat, to help motivate him. “Strike the big bum out!” she would holler.47 This humorous story was repeated many times over the years but is unlikely to be true, said Novikoff’s daughter Marilyn in a 2020 interview. “My mother was shy and conservative,” said Marilyn. “She would never say that.” Novikoff was always joking around; Marilyn believes he made up the story to entertain sportswriters. He often mugged for the camera.

For the 1940 US Census, Novikoff stated his occupation precisely: “Left field, Los Angeles ball club.” He had a monster season that year for the Angels. He won the PCL Triple Crown with 41 home runs, 171 runs batted in, and a .363 batting average. He also led the league in hits (259) and runs scored (147). He was the fastest man on the Angels,48 and he showed marked improvement in his fielding, with tutoring from teammates Jigger Statz and Carl Reynolds.49

Thirteen thousand fans saw the Angels play a doubleheader in Los Angeles on June 2, 1940. It was Novikoff Day, and he entertained the throng by hitting two home runs and by singing two songs. The burly slugger beautifully sang a couple of non-Russian favorites, “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Down by the Old Mill Stream.” He was accompanied by Russian musicians playing balalaikas and the Los Angeles Civic Chorus, a 125-person choral group.50 The performance was incongruous yet delightful.

Novikoff sang at every opportunity. This interest surely sprouted from his cultural roots; singing was central to Prygun “religious experience and social life.”51 On September 15, 1940, the final day of the Angels’ regular season, he “wowed the fans by singing ‘When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano.’”52 This time he sang a capella, which was the Prygun way. A few days earlier, he and his wife had welcomed their second child, daughter Anita Kay.

That fall, Novikoff played for two southern California baseball teams, Joe Pirrone’s All-Stars and the Rosabell Plumbers. On October 27 he hit two home runs, one for each team. In a game that began at 1:00, he homered for the All-Stars at White Sox Park in Los Angeles. He then rushed over to Rosabell Field in South Pasadena for a 2:30 game and slugged a grand slam for the Plumbers.53 Among his opponents were traveling Negro teams. He said the fastest pitcher he ever faced was the Negro League fireballer, Satchel Paige.54

Amid enormous publicity, Novikoff joined the Chicago Cubs in the spring of 1941. The Chicago press and fans held high hopes that his hitting would lift the Cubs to new heights. Expectations were so great that Novikoff will have to hit .700 to satisfy them, said sportswriter Arch Ward.55

Novikoff debuted on Opening Day, April 15, 1941, at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. He played in left field and went hitless. Two days later, he got his first major-league hit, a solo home run off Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In his first dozen major-league starts, Novikoff went 7-for-48 (.146) at the plate, and some sportswriters declared him a flop. “All Lou needs is a little hoopsa,” said Novikoff’s wife. “That’s a Russian dish something like a hamburger. It’s rolled in cabbage and served on a bun. He’ll begin to hit after he’s had some of that.”56

Cubs manager Jimmie Wilson and coach Charlie Grimm felt Novikoff was trying too hard.57 Perhaps fueled by hoopsa, Novikoff got hot over the week of May 24-30, going 14-for-32 (.438) with three home runs and 10 runs batted in. But he followed that with a cold stretch, 4-for-31 (.129), and was sent in June to the Milwaukee Brewers of the Double-A American Association. Grimm went with him and became manager of the team. Relaxed in Milwaukee, Novikoff led the Association with a .370 batting average.

In the second game of a doubleheader at Milwaukee on August 21, 1941, Novikoff was on second base with the bases loaded when he tried to steal third base. It was not a double steal; it was a mental lapse. He slid into third base only to find a teammate there and Grimm screaming at him from the third-base coaching box. Grimm demanded an explanation, and Novikoff said calmly, “Well, I had a swell lead.”58

Novikoff was a free spirit. One night during a Cubs road trip, he left the team hotel after 11:00 PM. Manager Wilson went looking for him and found him in a small nightclub “sitting on top of the piano singing at the top of his voice.” “He doesn’t drink,” said Wilson, “but he loves to sing.”59 The musical Novikoff appeared in the 1941 baseball documentary film Safe at Home. He is in the Cubs dugout playing the harmonica “in masterly fashion.”60

In the spring of 1942, Novikoff again struggled to hit for the Cubs. He acknowledged that the pitching was much better in the major leagues than in the minors. “Take a guy like [Cincinnati pitcher] Paul Derringer, for instance,” he said. “I don’t see how he ever loses a game. He just cocks his leg, fires the ball and if he misses his spot by a half-inch, he looks surprised.”61

But Novikoff’s hitting improved in June, and at season end, his .300 batting average ranked sixth in the National League. “Every ball he hits is a line drive,” said Mel Ott of the New York Giants.62 “I found out I was thinking too much,” said Novikoff. “I can’t hit when I’m thinking. So I just stopped thinking.”63 Years later, he explained what he meant: “[When] I went to the big leagues, they had to smarten me up. Had to tell me when to look for the curve, the fastball, the change, when to hit, when not to hit, how to stride, how to stroke, how to hit behind the runner. What happens? I learn so much I forget how to hit the ball.”64

Novikoff remained quite unconventional at the plate; his seeming preference for bad balls was notable. Warren Spahn of the Boston Braves made his first major-league start on September 13, 1942, in the second game of a doubleheader with the Cubs. “The first time I faced Novikoff, he didn’t come close to hitting two balls over the middle of the plate,” said Spahn. “I threw the next pitch over his head, and he lined it back between my legs.”65

“Novikoff is different from any hitter I ever saw,” said Cubs pitcher Charlie Root. “He is pure murder against a wild pitch, but not so hot against a curveball over the plate.”66 Satchel Paige’s catcher, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, concurred. “Novikoff’s weakness is a fat strike right down the middle,” said Radcliffe. “If you pitch over his head or a foot outside, he might hit it.”67

Immensely popular with Cubs fans, whom he called his “pals,”68 Novikoff had his own cheering section in the left-field stands at Wrigley Field. One of his biggest fans was Cubs owner Philip Wrigley. To discourage Novikoff from overthinking at the plate, Wrigley offered him $10 for each time he struck out swinging; he got nothing if he took a third strike. This “experiment” cost Wrigley $30.69 It is unknown whether it helped Novikoff’s hitting.

Novikoff was a much-publicized holdout in the spring of 1943, and he missed the first 28 games of the Cubs’ season. Shortly after rejoining the team, he put together an 18-game hitting streak from May 31 to June 20 in which he batted .391. But his hitting fell off; after June 26, he managed only one extra-base hit in 115 at-bats, and he was benched in August. For the season, he batted .279 in 78 games with no home runs.

Novikoff’s weight was an ongoing problem. “I’m the kind of fella who likes both home plate and the dinner plate,” he admitted.70 Overweight in the spring of 1944, he was relegated to a reserve role. The paunchy slugger was an effective pinch-hitter that year, going 12-for-40 (.300). His 12 pinch-hits tied Paul Waner for most in the major leagues.71

Novikoff passed through waivers and was assigned outright to the Los Angeles Angels in 1945. He played regularly for the Angels and hit .310. Meanwhile, World War II came to an end in Europe. During a festive celebration in Germany, US General Omar Bradley and Russian Marshal Ivan Konev drank several toasts to American and Russian leaders and one to Novikoff, a famous Russian-American.72

With the war continuing in the Pacific, Novikoff was inducted into the US Army in July 1945. He was stationed at Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas, and as a member of the Army Air Corps, he trained to be a parachutist. He was not deployed overseas; the war ended in September, and he was discharged in November.

Novikoff was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, but the club preferred rookie Del Ennis in left field. Novikoff started only two games for the team and went 6-for-14 (.429) as a pinch-hitter before his contract was sold in June 1946 to the Seattle Rainiers of the PCL. He would never again play in the majors.

Novikoff led the 1946 Rainiers with a .301 batting average. In a full season with the team the next year, he hit .325 and ranked third in the PCL in hits (210), doubles (44), and runs batted in (114). On September 23, 1947, he clubbed three home runs in Seattle’s 12-7 victory over Oakland.73 The following March, he and his wife welcomed their third child, son Louis Neva.

In 1948 Novikoff hit .327 in 64 games for the Rainiers and an identical .327 in 70 games for the Newark Bears. His 19-game hitting streak for the Bears was the longest of the year in the International League.74

In southern California that winter, he refereed pro wrestling matches that featured the likes of Gino “General” Garibaldi and “Rougher Ted the Turbulent” Christy.75 “The Mad Russian” fit right in with these characters.

Novikoff hit 13 home runs in his first 37 games with the 1949 Bears.76 His contract was sold in July to the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League. In 59 games with the Buffaloes, he hit only one home run. The following season was his last in professional baseball; he played for Yakima and Victoria in the Western International League.

Over the next decade, Novikoff was an outfielder on the Long Beach (California) Nitehawks softball team. Managed by Joe Rodgers, the Nitehawks were International Softball Congress (ISC) World Champions in seven of eight seasons, 1953-60.77 In 1965 Novikoff was the first person inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame.78 At the induction ceremony, he received a softball autographed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and letters of congratulation from NL President Warren Giles and Commissioner of Baseball Ford Frick.79

Novikoff was a generous man who went out of his way to help Russian immigrants in southern California, said his daughter Marilyn. He had several hobbies; he enjoyed deep-sea fishing and was a fine artist, sketching with pencil on paper. And he was a good cook. His specialty was shashlik — barbecue lamb marinated in a sauce he called a secret Russian recipe.

A beloved showman throughout his ballplaying career, Novikoff had no show in which to perform in the 1960s. Missing the “good old days,” he became absorbed in melancholy and alcohol.

Novikoff resided in a modest house in South Gate, California, near Los Angeles. He worked as a longshoreman until emphysema forced him into retirement in the mid-1960s. Rodgers arranged a benefit softball game in 1966 that raised $1,400 to help Novikoff pay his bills.80

Novikoff’s wife died of cancer in January 1970. He remarried, to Tanya Kosaroff, on September 18, 1970. Twelve days later, he suffered a heart attack. He had survived one 14 years earlier, but this one proved fatal. He died en route from South Gate to St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood. He was interred at the Russian Molokan Cemetery in Commerce, California.

In 2015 Novikoff was posthumously inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame.

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Joe DeSantis and fact-checked by Chris Rainey.

 

Sources

Ancestry.com, accessed September 2020.

Author’s interview of Marilyn Rich, daughter of Lou Novikoff, in September 2020.

Breyfogle, Nicholas B. Heretics and Colonizers: Forging Russia’s Empire in the South Caucasus (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2005). History of non-Orthodox Christians in Russia.

Dickson, Paul. The Worth Book of Softball: A Celebration of America’s True National Pastime (New York: Facts on File, 1994). History of softball in America.

SABR Minor League Baseball Stars, Revised Edition (Manhattan, Kansas: Ag Press, 1984), 75. Novikoff’s minor-league statistics.

Young, Pauline V. The Pilgrims of Russian-Town: The Community of Spiritual Christian Jumpers in America (New York: Russell & Russell, 1967), reprint of a book originally published by the University of Chicago in 1932. Research by a sociologist on the Prygun community in Los Angeles, circa 1930.

 

Notes

1 Tommy Holmes, “Sport Shorts,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 11, 1944: 13.

2 “Novikoff, Minor League Hitter, Bats .500 for Brews,” Racine (Wisconsin) Journal-Times, July 2, 1941: 18.

3 1910 US Census.

4 Breyfogle, Heretics and Colonizers, 300, 301.

5 1910 and 1930 US Censuses.

6 M.C.K. Shuey, “The Russian Molokans,” Eugene (Oregon) Register, March 11, 1906: 6.

7 World War II draft registration dated October 16, 1940, at Ancestry.com.

8 Young, Pilgrims of Russian-Town, 161.

9 “Anti-Drafters Fill the Jail,” Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1917: I-4. “Pryguny” is a Russian word that means “jumpers.”

10 “Jail for Anti-War Russians,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix), June 10, 1917: 1, 2.

11 “Russians Who Ran Afoul of First Draft Eagerly Register in Second One,” Arizona Star (Tucson), September 13, 1918: 4; and Alex Novikoff’s World War I draft registration dated September 12, 1918, at Ancestry.com. For a detailed account of the Glendale resisters, see: William Haas Moore, “Prisoners in the Promised Land: The Molokans in World War I,” Journal of Arizona History, Vol. 14, No. 4, Winter 1973: 281-302.

12 Young, Pilgrims of Russian-Town, 260.

13 From US Census records, the author was able to identify 12 children of Alex and Julia Novikoff; in order from oldest to youngest, they were John, William, David, Mary, Paul, Louis, Hazel, Alex Jr., Anna, Jacob, Katherine, and James. According to Marilyn Rich, Louis’s daughter, there were 13 children in all, eight boys and five girls.

14 California death certificate at Ancestry.com.

15 Boyle Heights Historical Society, “The Russians of the Flats of Boyle Heights Go to the Movies, Part One,” Boyle Heights History Blog, November 16, 2017, Boyleheightshistoryblog.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-russians-of-flats-of-boyle-heights.html.

16 Young, Pilgrims of Russian-Town, 23.

17 Young, Pilgrims of Russian-Town, 114.

18 Young, Pilgrims of Russian-Town, 149.

19 Young, Pilgrims of Russian-Town, 139, 140.

20 Louie Novikoff, “West Winds,” Santa Ana (California) Register, February 27, 1941: 6, 15.

21 “Ben Espinosa Wins Free Throw Honors,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1930: VI-a, 3; “Young Mound Ace,” Los Angeles Evening Express, April 24, 1930: 21.

22 Eddie West, “West Winds,” Santa Ana Register, September 11, 1936: 12.

23 World War II draft registration dated October 16, 1940, at Ancestry.com.

24 “Neva Pitches No-Hit, No-Run Game for Ralph Smith Squad,” Bakersfield Californian, May 21, 1932: 9.

25 “Ralph Smiths Take Grain Game during the Twelfth Frame,” Bakersfield Californian, June 1, 1932: 11.

26 “Smith Fusileers Rout 1931 Champions with Heavy Volley,” Bakersfield Californian, June 21, 1932: 12.

27 “Sensational Neva Too Good for Flyers,” Santa Ana Register, May 10, 1933: 6; “Bill Henry Says,” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1933: II-9.

28 “Novikoff, The Mad Russian, Says He Isn’t Mad Any More,” Sacramento Bee, April 11, 1945: 17.

29 Eddie West, “West Winds,” Santa Ana Register, March 16, 1935: 6; Eddie West, “West Winds,” Santa Ana Register, April 4, 1935: 10.

30 “Neva’s Arm, Bat Subdue S.A.,” Santa Ana Register, September 18, 1935: 10.

31 “Joe Rodgers’ H.B. Team to Play Tiernans,” Santa Ana Register, August 27, 1926: 17. Rodgers’ height was obtained from his World War II draft registration.

32 Jimmy Conzelman, “Lou Will Start to Hit Soon,” Moline (Illinois) Dispatch, April 25, 1941: 23.

33 Bob Ray, “Novikoff, Mad Russian, Who Makes Hurlers See Red, Set to Resume Firing on Coast with Aim on Chicago,” The Sporting News, February 29, 1940: 5.

34 Bob Ray, “The Sports X-Ray,” Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1939: II-14; “Ace High in Three-I,” The Sporting News, November 3, 1938: 8.

35 Lynn Callaway, “Plows Face Decatur Tonight after Losing Pair to Evansville,” Moline Dispatch, June 24, 1938: 18; Ron Lorenzen, “Moline Loses Two Contests to Evansville,” Davenport (Iowa) Times, June 24, 1938: 20.

36 Lynn Callaway, “Triumphant Plows Await End of Springfield-Decatur Series,” Moline Dispatch, September 12, 1938: 12.

37 Lynn Callaway, “From the Press Box,” Moline Dispatch, April 28, 1938: 29.

38 “Novikoff Believes It’s Accident When Opposition Gets Him Out,” Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), January 22, 1941: 15.

39 Edgar G. Brands, “MacPhail, Durocher, DiMaggio Receive Top Rating in Big Time,” The Sporting News, December 28, 1939: 1, 7.

40 Bob Ray, “The Sports X-Ray,” Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1939: II-10.

41 “Yes, Poncans Remember Lou — Who Could Forget Those Pranks,” Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), January 21, 1941: 14; Tommy Holmes, “Novikoff No Speaker in the Field, but They Say His Bat Will Talk,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 3, 1941: 13.

42 Bob Ray, “Novikoff, Mad Russian, Who Makes Hurlers See Red, Set to Resume Firing on Coast with Aim on Chicago,” The Sporting News, February 29, 1940: 5.

43 Collier’s Weekly, January 25, 1941: 14, 44.

44 “Wouldn’t Pitch to Himself,” The Sporting News, April 11, 1940: 1.

45 Bob Ray, “The Sports X-Ray,” Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1939: II-10.

46 Joe R. Carter, “Raspberries and Cream,” Shreveport (Louisiana) Times, March 27, 1943: 6.

47 Bob Ray, “Novikoff, Super-Slugger, Sees Major Goal in Sight,” Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1939: II-15.

48 “Novikoff Believes It’s Accident When Opposition Gets Him Out,” Capital Times, January 22, 1941: 15.

49 Bob Ray, “Headed for Cubs, These L.A. Lou-Lous,” The Sporting News, September 12, 1940: 1.

50 Bob Ray, “Novikoff Shines as Angels Divide Pair,” Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1940: II-9, II-11; Bob Ray, “Novikoff’s Socking and Singing Thrill L.A. Fans on Lou’s ‘Day,’” The Sporting News, June 13, 1940: 6.

51 Margarita Mazo, “Singing as Experience among Russian American Molokans,” in: Philip V. Bohlman, Edith L. Blumhofer, and Maria M. Chow, eds., Music in American Religious Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 83.

52 Bob Ray, “Angels Grab Pair of Games,” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1940: II-9, II-10.

53 Bob Ray, “Lou Novikoff Has Ball Fans in Double-Dither,” Los Angeles Times, October 30, 1940: I-16.

54 Avrum Stroll, “Novikoff Doesn’t Like Our Ball Park’s Lighting System,” Oakland Tribune, August 30, 1940: 23.

55 Arch Ward, “In the Wake of the News,” Minneapolis Tribune, December 30, 1940: 14.

56 “Mrs. Novikoff Says Lou Will Hit Now,” Racine Journal-Times, April 23, 1941: 16.

57 John Henry, “Wilson Certain ‘Mad Russian’ Will Succeed,” Scranton (Pennsylvania) Tribune, May 5, 1941: 13; Earl Hilligan, “Terrific Pre-Season Build-Up Cause of Slump of Novikoff—Charley Grimm,” Newport News (Virginia) Press, May 14, 1941: 6.

58 “Brewers Split with Columbus,” Ironwood (Michigan) Globe, August 22, 1941: 10; Hugh Fullerton Jr., “Manhattan in Line to Receive Lambert Trophy,” Alton (Illinois) Telegraph, October 18, 1941: 9; Keith Matthews, “Baseball Will Never Forget Lou,” Vancouver (British Columbia) News-Herald, August 17, 1950: 7.

59 “Lou Novikoff the Real Diz,” Sunbury (Pennsylvania) Item, December 24, 1941: 21.

60 John Drebinger, “National League’s Annual Movie Instructs as Well as Entertains,” New York Times, November 26, 1941: 31.

61 Lawton Carver, “Fans in Uproar When Lights Go Out; Mad Russian Makes Big Time Grade,” Lincoln (Nebraska) Star, August 4, 1942: 8.

62 Frank Niessen, “The Customers Were Right about Lou,” Albuquerque Journal, September 27, 1942: 18.

63 Joe McCarthy, “Sports: Lou Novikoff, the Mad Russian, Finally Hits Big League Pitching in a Great Big Way,” Yank, September 9, 1942: 22.

64 Lorin McMullen, “Sports,” Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, July 21, 1949: 9.

65 Harold Kaese, “Real Russians a Rarity Here,” Boston Globe, January 12, 1959: 19, 21.

66 Grantland Rice, “Rice Sees Good Chance Now for Cub-Giant Feud Renewal,” Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, March 5, 1942: 29.

67 Sec Taylor, “Sittin’ In with the Athletes,” Des Moines (Iowa) Register, January 18, 1944: 11.

68 Ed Burns, “Lou’s a Glad Russian as He Gets Back into Base-Knock Knack,” The Sporting News, August 27, 1942: 1, 7.

69 “Scribbled by Scribes,” The Sporting News, July 16, 1942: 4.

70 Oscar Fraley, “Mad Russian Not Mad,” Nashville Tennessean, July 28, 1944: 23.

71 L. Robert Davids, “New Records for Pinch Hitters,” Baseball Research Journal, 1977, Sabr.org/journal/article/new-records-for-pinch-hitters/.

72 Robert Meyer, “Jitterbugging, Mock Wrestling Tickle Konev at Bradley Party,” Knoxville (Tennessee) News-Sentinel, May 18, 1945: 5.

73 Walter Judge, “Novikoff Raps 3 Homers as Suds Slap Oaks, 12-7,” San Francisco Examiner, September 24, 1947: 22.

74 Milton Richman, “Batting Title Is Captured by Triplett,” Windsor (Ontario) Star, December 3, 1948: 4.

75 “Levy, Manganoff Bowl Mat Victors,” San Pedro (California) News-Pilot, December 29, 1948: 11.

76 Wilbur Adams, “Between the Sport Lines,” Sacramento Bee, June 29, 1949: 26.

77 Dickson, Worth Book of Softball, 174.

78 “Novikoff First Member of ISC ‘Hall,’” Rock Island (Illinois) Argus, August 14, 1965: 14.

79 Rock Island Argus, September 1, 1965: 22.

80 Doug Ives, “Drafted Players See Dollar Signs,” Long Beach (California) Independent, June 14, 1966: 10.

Full Name

Louis Alexander Novikoff

Born

October 12, 1915 at Glendale, AZ (USA)

Died

September 30, 1970 at South Gate, CA (USA)

If you can help us improve this player’s biography, contact us.

Tags

None

© SABR. All Rights Reserved