Glimpses Into Baseball History: Bruce Petway

From SABR member Brian McKenna at Glimpses Into Baseball History on December 8, 2011:

Bruce Franklin Petway
Nicknames: Home Run, Buddy
Bruce Franklin Petway was born in Nashville, Tennessee two days before Christmas in 1885.


Petway switch-hit and threw righthanded. James A. Riley lists him at 5’11” and 170 pounds. The Negro League Database at claims 5’10” and 159 pounds. Contemporary references were found claiming he was tall which would suggest that he was around six feet tall.

Petway was nicknamed “Home Run” early in his career but he was more of a speed demon on the base paths than a power hitter. More than one headline marveled at his daring steals of home. His nickname “Buddy” was in much greater use and lasted throughout his career.

It was said that Petway was a contact hitter and fit well into Rube Foster’s scheme during the early 20th century. That is, he was an effective leadoff hitter who bunted well and stole his share of bases. Early statistical references seem to show this; however, his current stats at the Negro League Database show an overall weak hitter.

Petway’s main contribution though was behind the plate. He was the finest defensive catcher of the first quarter of the century. His skills, particularly with his arm, were admired wherever he traveled – and he traveled extensively year-round in the East, West, South, North and to the island of Cuba.

In short, he had a strong, accurate arm and was tough on base runners. Moreover, he was particularly heralded for his fielding of bunts. Petway was naturally compared to major leaguer Johnny Kling who was renowned for the same skills. They both pegged the ball to the bases, even second, from a squat.

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Originally published: December 8, 2011. Last Updated: December 8, 2011.