Ralph Sharman (Baseball-Reference.com)

Ralph Sharman

This article was written by Darren Gibson

Ralph Sharman (Baseball-Reference.com)Two-time minor-league batting champion Ralph Sharman enjoyed a productive late-season tryout with the 1917 Philadelphia Athletics. Eschewing a potential full-season roster spot for 1918, Sharman instead enlisted in the Army in order to serve his country. Tragically, the 23-year-old soldier became the second player who had reached the major leagues to die while serving in the armed forces during World War I, drowning just months later in Alabama during training exercises.1

Ralph Edward Sharman was born on April 11, 1895, in Cleveland, Ohio, the youngest of five children born to John Sharman, a life insurance agent, and Hannah (Ette) Sharman. John also served as a city councilman of Norwood, a suburb northeast of Cincinnati. Both parents emigrated from England in 1883. Ralph had two brothers and two sisters. John retired in 1909 as the superintendent of the West District of the Western and Southern Life Insurance Company, after working for the firm for 16 years.2

Ralph, at 5-feet-11 and 176 pounds, starred as a back in football, and also played baseball, at Norwood High School. In 1913, Sharman began playing with the local Norwood Blues semipro squad. His father John passed away in September of that year.

The next year, “‘Bally’ Sharman … became a hero at Norwood” with a three-run walk-off home run, his second homer and fourth hit of the day, on a full count. It won an April contest, 9-8, over the Cincinnati Shamrocks in Cincinnati City League action.3 He won another against the same Shamrocks with another home run a week later.4

The next month, an opposing manager touted him: “Sharman is a very promising young player, and I would not be a bit surprised to see him in big league company in another year. He is only 19 years old, and he is playing sensational ball this year. I wish we had him.”5 A local reporter in the same article commented, “Sharman works hard in the field as well as at bat. He is a modest chap and makes friends readily. He is always doing things at the right time.”6

Soon after, the “fence-busting outfielder” was signed by the United States Printing Company of the M & M Commercial League, which later in the season also inked future Cincinnati Reds pitcher Larry Jacobus.7 Sharman was purchased by the Portsmouth Cobblers of the Class D Ohio State League in early June.8 Statistics show that he played seven summer games with Portsmouth, going 4-for-18.9 Norwood’s “heavy hitter” also competed as a back with the town’s football team that fall.10

Sharman became the everyday center fielder for Portsmouth to begin 1915. In May, he had a workout with the Cincinnati Reds. Manager Joe Tinker proclaimed, “That kid is the most natural ball player I ever saw. Give him a couple of years in a minor league and he will be the greatest find of all time.”11

Young Ralph led the Ohio State League with a .374 average and 147 hits in 103 games.12 He also paced outfielders with a .991 fielding percentage.13 Portsmouth won the league title, four games to two, over the Maysville (Kentucky) Angels. Sharman hit .565 (13-for-23) in the series, belting a homer in the clincher.14 After the season, he was purchased by the New York Giants for $500.15 He lived during the off-season in Youngstown, Ohio.

Unfortunately for Sharman, right before heading towards Giants training camp in Marlin, Texas, he contracted blood poisoning. As the story went, while working out at a gymnasium, the dye from his socks seeped into open blisters on his feet, temporarily sidelining him.16

Obviously not at his best in camp, Sharman was optioned by the Giants to the Memphis Chickasaws of the Class A Southern Association. However, in a letter to Chickasaw manager Dolly Stark, Giants skipper John McGraw “praised Sharman highly and stated that he was one of the most promising looking youngsters he had seen in a long time.”17

Sharman strained a tendon in his right leg early in April.18 He started 1-for-1719 and hit 5-for-38 (.132) for Memphis before being optioned to the Galveston Pirates of the Class B Texas League.20 Sharman hit .277 in 105 games for Galveston, playing for manager Paul Sentell, and was recalled by Memphis after the 1916 season.

Memphis returned Sharman to Galveston during camp in 1917. After the Galveston  franchise disbanded in May with a record of 11-29, Sharman was assigned to the Fort Worth Panthers, another Texas League club, where he manned center field for manager Jake Atz. Sharman wound up leading the circuit in hitting at .341.21 He was purchased near the end of the season by the Philadelphia Athletics, being promoted along with fellow Texas Leaguer Eddie Palmer, of Dallas.

In mid-August, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram sportswriter penned the following glowing limerick regarding Sharman:

With the bludgeon, you’re an ace Ralph Sharman,
You can surely go the pace Ralph Sharman,
You’re showing ’em at last,
That you cannot be outclassed
That you wield a wicked mace, Ralph Sharman.22

Another Texas newspaper was also effusive in its praise of the youngster: “Fort Worth gets the palm for developing the league’s best player during 1917. Ralph Sharman, leading hitter, is the star of the league in all departments of the game. He would strengthen the outfields of several major league clubs right now. This boy is a strong-armed outfielder, equally proficient going back and to the sides for fly balls, and is one sweet right-handed hitter, a commodity much in demand. His development began shortly after he joined Fort Worth, and he came through with a rush.”23

After Fort Worth’s season, he had “a bad stone bruise on his left heel” and therefore returned home for a few days before reporting to Connie Mack and the Athletics.24 Sharman debuted for Mack on September 10, 1917, in a 10-1 defeat, the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees. He collected his first hit against Ray Fisher by beating out a grounder to shortstop. He then unsuccessfully pinch-hit in the nightcap. He debuted the same day as did fellow outfielder Gene Bailey.

Sharman started eight of the final nine games for the last-place Athletics and ended up going 11-for-37 (.297) during his trial. Mack and the parent club held high hopes for the outfielder for 1918. Instead, in November Sharman enlisted in the Army.25 Among those also lost by Philadelphia to the war effort were infielder Ray Bates and pitchers Socks Seibold, Win Noyes, and Jing Johnson.26

Young Sharman was extolled as “an inspiring example to other players who are in a position to offer their services to their country, but who have not as yet shown an inclination to do so. On the threshold of a major league career that promised to be most brilliant, Sharman has cheerfully put his ambitions and his hopes of success in the big show behind him in order that he may do his bit in the world war.”27

Sharman served as a corporal in the 136th field artillery division for Battery F out of Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama. There he became captain of the baseball team and was involved with other athletics also.28 The Cincinnati Reds trained at Camp Sheridan in the spring of 1918. The two squads faced each other in an exhibition in Montgomery on March 17, with the Reds prevailing only by a 4-3 final.29 On May 4, up in Cincinnati, Sharman’s Camp Sheridan contingent bested former major-leaguer Earl Moseley and a Camp Sherman squad, 10-6.30

The 23-year-old Sharman’s tragic death came less than three weeks later. On May 24, 1918, he was “caught in a whirlpool while swimming in the [Alabama River] near Camp Sheridan … [He] was swept to his death before the eyes of his companions. Expert swimmers went to Sharman’s assistance, but too late.”31 Sharman’s body was discovered two days later.32

His remains “were placed in an automobile caisson and brought through the streets of Montgomery followed by every member of Sharman’s battery, including the officers. The funeral dirge was played by the band of the regiment. The body was sent to Cincinnati for interment.”33 Fellow army man, Norwood teammate of Sharman’s, and minor-league ballplayer John Dell escorted the body back to Ohio.34 Sharman was buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was survived by all four siblings and by his mother, who passed away less than a year and a half later.35 A Fort Worth Star-Telegram remembrance proclaimed Sharman as “the picture of health and a model athlete while wearing the colors of [Fort Worth manager Jakie Atz’s] Atzmen.”36



This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rory Costello and fact-checked by James Forr.



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



1 “Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice,” https://www.baseballsgreatestsacrifice.com/world_war_i.html. Retrieved February 2024. Newt Halliday, who had one at-bat in the major leagues, died in April 1918 of tuberculosis. Six other players with major-league service died in the fall of 1918.

2 “Loving Cup,” Cincinnati Enquirer, February 1, 1909: 11.

3 “Sharman’s Homer in Ninth Wins Game,” Cincinnati Post, April 20, 1914, 2; “Norwood 9, Shamrock 8,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 20, 1914, 9.

4 “Sharman Again Wins Game with Homer,” Cincinnati Post, April 27, 1914: 2.

5 “’Home-Run,’” Middletown (Ohio) News-Signal, May 14, 1914: 6.

6 “’Home-Run.’”

7 “Amateur Baseball,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 26, 1914, 21.

8 “Sharman Is Coming Back,” Cincinnati Post, July 9, 1914, 2.

9 “Ohio State League,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 5, 1914, Sec. 3, 6.

10 “Warm Chase Is Made for Grid Stars,” Cincinnati Post, September 3, 1914: 6.

11 “Boost for Sharman,” Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, May 19, 1915: 11 (from the Charleston Post).

12 “Ralph Sharman Boss Hitter in Ohio State,” Portsmouth Daily Times, October 25, 1915: 2.

13 “Ralph Sharman Led,” Portsmouth Daily Times, November 10, 1915: 10.

14 “Championship Banner Grabbed by Locals,” Portsmouth Daily Times, September 15, 1915: 2. Statscrew.com incorrectly lists the series as being won four games to one.

15 “Six Carolina Men to Bigger Company,” High Point (North Carolina) Enterprise, November 9, 1915: 6.

16 “He Sets Fine Example,Baltimore Sun, November 8, 1917: 8.

17 “New Candidate for Chickasaw Outfield Job Ohio League Star,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis), March 26, 1916: 22.

18 “Sharman Injured,” Portsmouth Daily Times, April 19, 1916: 2.

19 “Walker Has Sweet Average of .647,” (Little Rock) Daily Arkansas Gazette, April 30, 1916: 17.

20 “Chicks Sell Sharman to Galveston Club,” Chattanooga News, April 5, 1917: 12.

21 “Texas Batting and Pitching Records,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 16, 1917: 13.

22 “Kike’s Komment,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 15, 1917: 10.

23 “Wilson Mathews’ All Star Team of the Texas League,” Waco (Texas) Daily Times-Herald, September 2, 1917: 7.

24 “Kike’s Komment,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 11, 1917: 8.

25 “He Sets Fine Example.”

26 “Mack May Have Wrecked Team on Account of War Condition,” Star-Gazette (Elmira, New York), January 4, 1918: 8.

27 “He Sets Fine Example.”

28 “Ralph Sharman of 136th Field Artillery Drowned Friday,” Montgomery Advertiser, May 25, 1918: 3.

29 Jack Ryder, “Real Team,” Cincinnati Enquirer, March 18, 1918: 8.

30 Bob Beiser, “Pounded: Earl Moseley’s Spitter,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 5, 1918: 18.

31 “Ralph Sharman of 136th Field Artillery Drowned Friday.”.

32 “Sharman’s Body Taken from River; Funeral Today,” Montgomery Advertiser, May 27, 1918: 5.

33 “Military Funeral of Sharman was Largely Attended,” Birmingham Post-Herald, May 28, 1918: 9.

34 “To Bury Ralph Sharman,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 28, 1918: 8.

35 “Mrs. Sharman’s Funeral,” Cincinnati Post, October 30, 1919: 4.

36 “Kike’s Komments,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 30, 1918: 9

Full Name

Ralph Edward Sharman


April 11, 1895 at Cleveland, OH (USA)


May 24, 1918 at Camp Sheridan, AL (USA)

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