Ralph Head (Baseball-Reference.com)

Ralph Head

This article was written by Darren Gibson

Ralph Head (Baseball-Reference.com)Forced into service after his team’s 14-inning tie on Opening Day, 29-year-old Georgian rookie pitcher Ralph Head started the second game of the season for the woeful 1923 Philadelphia Phillies. A Purple Heart recipient from the Great War, Head performed well in his debut, then won his first decision with a complete game in his second start a week later. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. Head’s underwhelming 2-9 record and devilish 6.66 ERA marked his only season in the majors. He later served as a frontline starter on the dominant Fort Worth Panthers championship teams of the Texas League from 1924-26, the highlight among his 19-year professional career spanning 17 teams.

Ralph Head (no middle name) was born on August 30, 1893, in Tallapoosa, Georgia, a small town roughly 50 miles west of Atlanta and near the Alabama border. Ralph was the fifth of seven children of Abner Iverson Head, a judge, lawyer and later mayor of Tallapoosa, and Cora Frances (Camp) Head.

Ralph and an older brother named Fred started as pitchers for Tallapoosa’s town team as of June 1911.1 The next year, Ralph pitched while Fred homered against a town team from Senoia.2

Ralph attended the University of Georgia. He broke three ribs as a freshman in his first varsity football game, and never suited up again.3 Curiously, he never played on the varsity baseball team.

Nonetheless, Head began his professional baseball career as a 19-year-old in May 1913 with the Waycross (Georgia) Blowhards of the Class D Empire State League. In his first pro appearance, he entered with the bases loaded and no outs and proceeded to strike out the side.4 After a short stop with Cordele of the same league, Head latched on with the LaGrange (Georgia) Terrapins of the new Class D Georgia-Alabama League. New manager “Kid” Brannen, a University of Georgia pitching star and captain of the 1912 collegiate team, who had been coaching the school team, recruited Head to LaGrange. Ralph, the blond kid from Tallapoosa, pitched “an invincible game”5 while striking out 11 in beating Anniston’s one-armed pitcher W.H. “Bill” White in June.6 Head posted an 8-6 record for LaGrange in 1913, but got hurt in late July, costing him the balance of the season.

Returning to LaGrange in 1914, Head fell to future major-leaguers Jakie May of Newnan in May7 and Whitey Glazner of Anniston in June. His season record is not available. Head, who employed a spitball on occasion, went 6-9 in his third year at LaGrange in 1915.

Head, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound righthander, advanced to the Columbus (Georgia) Foxes of the Class C South Atlantic League in 1916, pitching to a 14-13 mark. After the season, Head was drafted by the Waco Navigators of the Class B Texas League. After six games in spring 1917 for Waco, he was returned to Columbus, then shipped to the Hartford (Connecticut) Senators of the Class B Eastern League. Head had an eight-game winning streak for Hartford but posted only a 10-11 record.

His 1917 draft registration shows the 23-year-old as a single ballplayer. He soon enlisted in the Army, serving for over a year in France in the Great War. In October 1918, Private Head was wounded in Sommerance, France,8 with the degree undetermined,9 later receiving a Purple Heart for his service. By May 1919, Head, part of the 328th Infantry of Company A, the first of Sergeant Alvin C. York’s regiment, arrived at Camp Gordon in Atlanta, Georgia for demobilization.10 Head soon returned to the Hartford team in mid-June, asserting that he “had considerable success pitching against army teams in France.”11 Head posted a 6-9 record.

For 1920, Head notched a pedestrian .500 (14-14) mark for fourth-place Hartford, with a highlight being a one-hit shutout over Worcester in July.12 The census for that year showed 26-year-old Ralph still living with his parents in Georgia.

Head posted another .500 record (17-17) for the Senators in 1921, having beaten the Pittsfield Hillies five times as of mid-June. Before the 1922 season, Hartford owner Jim Clarkin thought he had a deal to send Head to the St. Louis Browns, but the Browns demurred from sending Head to camp.13 Head won 16 and lost 12 in his fifth year at Hartford. It was reported that he had three one-hit games in the Eastern League.14

In February 1923, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Head.15 During Phillies camp in Leesburg, Florida, the Philadelphia Inquirer commented: “One other lad who has been one of the nuggets discovered in the pile of debris, so to speak, foisted on the manager, is Ralph Head, a right-hander.”16 The same article lamented that “his sole handicap is the fact that he is now 26, which is a sad age for a debutante in baseball.”17 If they only knew he was actually 29! The Inquirer also noted that “he is as strong as a moose and knows how to pitch. Head’s fast ball is a thing of beauty, except when you ask a batter about it.”18 Head broke camp with the Phillies.

On Opening Day 1923, the Phillies and Brooklyn Robins fought to a 14-inning, five-all draw. Manager Art Fletcher had been forced to use Bill Hubbell, Jesse Winters, and Huck Betts each for at least four innings in the opener. Enter Ralph Head. The 29-year-old rookie made his major-league debut as the starting pitcher in the Phillies’ second game of the season, on April 18, facing Burleigh Grimes and the Brooklyn Robins. The promising hurler allowed only three hits over the first eight innings, taking a 5-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth inning. However, after allowing a leadoff home run to Zack Wheat, followed by a single and a walk, Head was relieved. Brooklyn plated five in the ninth to pull out the 6-5 victory, costing Head his first major-league win.19

Head was victorious in his second start, a complete-game 3-2 road victory on April 25 over the Boston Braves, in front of only 500 fans.20 Unfortunately, the next five weeks were not as kind for Head, as he lost six straight decisions from April 30 to June 1. During Head’s start on June 1, the opponents, the New York Giants, set a modern-era record by scoring in every inning of a 22-8 dismantling of the Phillies.21 Three more defeats in July and early August put Head at 1-9 for the season, before he finally won again, in a relief appearance on August 24 against the Chicago Cubs.

Head finished the year with a 2-9 record and poor 6.66 ERA over 35 games (13 starts). He struck out a mere 24 batters in over 132 innings of work. Philadelphia went a disastrous 3-32 in Head’s pitching appearances, as they finished in last place in the National League with a 50-104 record. Head held some dubious marks in his year in the City of Brotherly Love. To wit, he pitched in 10 games during which the Phillies allowed 16 or more hits, including a high of 25 hits on June 29. Head yielded eight of those in two innings in relief of fellow Georgia-Alabama League alum Whitey Glazner.22

Before the 1924 season, Head was sold to the Fort Worth Panthers of the Class A Texas League. It was hoped he would replace the departed Lil Stoner.23

Fort Worth, with Joe Pate, Paul Wachtel, and Head, formed a dominant three-headed pitching staff for 1924. Pate went 30-8 and Wachtel 22-10. Even after being hospitalized for a couple of weeks in late spring, Head posted an impressive 15-3 record, as the Panthers went 109-41, winning both halves and the league (for a fourth straight season) over Houston by over 30 games. Head’s ERA of 2.38 fell just behind the league-leading 2.35 of Houston’s Jack Knight. The Panthers then defeated the Southern Association champs, the Memphis Chicks, in the postseason Dixie Series, four games to three (one tie). Head injured a finger on his pitching hand from a comebacker in Game Six.

Head fell further back in the Fort Worth rotation in 1925, behind Pate, Wachtel, Augie Johns, and Jim Walkup. He went 8-9 that season. The Panthers beat the Atlanta Crackers in six games to take the Dixie Series.

Soon after the season, Head married Mae Wright, a local Texan from Wichita Falls, in Fort Worth.24 The couple settled in Georgia in the offseason; Ralph worked and hunted on his farm.

Before the 1926 season, Head again picked up the spitball after Joe Pate left the Panthers. He could do so because the rules of the Texas League (the only Class A circuit) allowed two spitballers on each squad.25 After going 6-5 for the Panthers, he was sent in August by business manager Paul La Grave to the Des Moines Demons (aka Imps) of the Western League.26 Unfortunately, Head soon had to return to Fort Worth to care for his ailing wife. Returning to Iowa in early September,27 Head went 5-2 for Des Moines as they took the league crown by half a game over Oklahoma City.

Head started the 1927 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Class AA International League. In late May, he was traded with Otis Lawry within the IL to the Rochester Tribe for young pitcher Augie Prudhomme.28 On June 2, Rochester formed a starting battery of “Head and Head,” with Ralph tossing to catcher Lee, against Syracuse.29 Ralph was sold by Rochester to his former Hartford squad in late June.30 In late July he was with the York White Roses of the Class B New York-Penn League. By month’s end, he was added by Harrisburg within the NYPL, having been loaned out by Rochester.31 He won six of eight games for manager Win Clark and Harrisburg, which won the league.32 After the season, Ralph returned to Georgia, where he remained involved with farming.33

Released by Jersey City (where Rochester had relocated) before the 1928 season, Head landed with Waterbury. He ended the year at Pittsfield after being under option from Waterbury and posted a 7-17 composite record. The next season, Head went 11-6 for Binghamton, which won the New York-Penn League.

Prior to the 1930 campaign, Binghamton sent Head to Nashville of the Southern Association.34 It was reported that this was Head’s 16th club.35 He went 10-11 for Nashville.

Moving to Norfolk of the Eastern League for the 1931 season, Head posted an 11-12 record. He is shown in Norfolk’s 1932 team picture as of late April. Nicknamed “Sergeant,” he was one of the last A.E.F. veterans still playing, like Clarence Mitchell.36 He won Norfolk’s last game, on July 16, before the league disbanded a day later.37

Head retreated to his farm a mile south of Tallapoosa.38 There he spent his final 30 years. His 1940 census record has not yet been identified, but the 1950 census said that Head was separated from Mae and living in Tallapoosa with his sister Julia and brother-in-law Charles, and that he was an express agent for Southern Railroad. He later remarried, to Blanche Hall of Tallapoosa, during the 1950s.

Ralph Head died on October 8, 1962, in Muscadine, Alabama, just across the Georgia border and near Tallapoosa. No obituary is presently available, He was buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Tallapoosa. He was survived by his wife Blanche, sister Julia, and brother Harold.



This biography was reviewed by Gregory H. Wolf and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Ray Danner.



Baseball-Reference.com, StatsCrew.com, MyHeritage.com, and Findagrave.com.



1 “Tallapoosa Team Loses from Villa Rica, 7-5,” Atlanta Journal, June 3, 1911: 19.

2 “Senoia Wins Close Game from Tallapoosa,” Atlanta Journal, June 27, 1912: 16.

3 “Eastern League Notes,” Berkshire County Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), March 28, 1923: 13.

4 “Just Notes,” Valdosta (Georgia) Daily Times, May 7, 1913: 3.

5 LaGrange Beats Chickens,” Montgomery Advertiser, June 7, 1913: 9.

6 “LaGrange 11, Anniston 6,” Atlanta Constitution, June 7, 1913: 9.

7 “Three Straight for Newnan,” Montgomery Advertiser, May 28, 1914: 9.

8 “Ralph Head,” Findagrave.com website, (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/48060292/ralph-head) accessed May 24, 2024.

9 “4,022 American Casualties; 113 Tennesseans in List,” Chattanooga Daily Times, December 26, 1918: 10; “America’s Roll of Honor,” Atlanta Constitution, December 26, 1918: 8.

10 “328th Contingent Arrives at Camp,” Atlanta Constitution, May 29, 1919: 9.

11 “Clarkin Signs Chinese Player,” Hartford Courant, May 22, 1919: 16; “Brooklyn Recruit to Join Senators,” Hartford Courant, June 15, 1919: 41.

12 “Head Holds Boosters to One Hit and Senators Win 1 to 0,” Bridgeport (Connecticut) Telegram, July 30, 1920: 3.

13 John M. Greene, “Contracts to be Mailed to Members of Local Club This Week, Says Clarkin,” Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, January 16, 1922: 6.

14 Earnest J. Lanigan, “New Major Leaguers,” Hartford Courant, April 7, 1923: 13.

15 “Phillies Sign Ralph Head,” Buffalo (New York) Enquirer, February 19, 1923: 6.

16 Gordon Mackay, “No Loafing Among Phillies with Art Flecther on Job,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 24, 1923: 18.

17 “No Loafing Among Phillies with Art Flecther on Job.”

18 “No Loafing Among Phillies with Art Flecther on Job.”

19 Thomas S. Rice, “Wheat Starts 5-Run Rally in Ninth with His Homer; Olson Drives in Winner,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 19, 1923: 26; “Robins Score Five Runs in Ninth and Beat Phils, 6 to 5,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 19, 1923: 22.

20 “Head’s Pitching and Phillies’ Timely Hits Scalp Boston Braves,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 26, 1923: 20.

21 “Ralph Head,” Findagrave.com.

22 “No Wonder He Went to Texas,” Record-Journal (Meriden, Connecticut), March 4, 1924: 4 (from Spalding’s 1924 Guide).

23 “Philly Pitcher of 1923 Joins Panthers,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 26, 1924: 10.

24 “Ralph Head is Married Here to Mrs. Wright,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 27, 1925: 12.

25 “With Rivals in Texas League Camps,” (Shreveport) Times, March 11, 1926: 9.

26 “New Hurler to Join Imp Team,” Des Moines Register, August 5, 1926: 7. Baseball-Reference just lists his as “Head” while with Des Moines.

27 “Ralph Head to Don His Demon Uniform Again,” Des Moines Register, September 4, 1926: 7.

28 “Leafs Get Prudhomme,” Windsor (Ontario, Canada) Star, May 30, 1927: 18.

29 “Three Local Hurlers Fail to Turn Tide,” Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), June 3, 1927: 36.

30 “Pitcher Ralph Head Bought by Hartford from Rochester,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 25, 1927: 1.

31 “Leading N-Y-P Teams Add Players for Chase,” Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), July 30, 1927: 9.

32 “Harrisburg Team Winner of NYP League Pennant,” Time-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), September 12, 1927: 18.

33 “Champ Senators Ball Players Leaving City,” Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), September 20, 1927: 18.

34 Zipp Newman, “Dusting ‘Em Off,” Birmingham News, February 16, 1930: 19.

35 Blinkey Horn, “Ralph Head Has Done Plenty of League Tourning,” (Nashville) Tennessean, February 13, 1930: 12.

36 R.K.T. Larson, “Bottoms Up,” (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot, May 30, 1932: 10.

37 “Head Delivers 8-Hit Contest to Turn Trick,” Virginian-Pilot, July 17, 1932: 11. Head is not listed on Norfolk’s 1932 roster on Baseball-Reference.com.

38 “Georgian Kills Self,” Atlanta Journal, June 27, 1933: 14.

Full Name

Ralph Head


August 30, 1893 at Tallapoosa, GA (USA)


October 8, 1962 at Muscadine, AL (USA)

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