|Charles "Chuck" Workman, Leeton, MO Baseball Player|
Looking Back: Vols Charley Workman Remembered
By Bill Traughber / Nashville Baseball Historian
The Nashville Vols were known for having sluggers that with ease placed the baseball over the fence for home runs. One of these players was Charley Workman. Workman clubbed 52 home runs for Nashville in 1948 to lead the Southern Association and helped the Vols to the league pennant.
Workman was born in Leeton, Missouri on January 6, 1915. In his career, Workman played for nine different minor league clubs including Springfield, (Ohio), Cedar Rapids, Wilkes-Barre (Pa), Nashville, Indianapolis, Oakland, Minneapolis, Chattanooga and Atlanta.
The right-hander started in Springfield in 1937 and saw time in the majors with Cleveland in 1938 (played in two games) and again as an Indian in 1941 (played in nine games). Workman was picked up by the Braves in 1943 and earned a starting outfielder position.
Prior to being called to Cleveland at the end of the 1941 season, Workman was in Nashville where he hit .334 (96-for-287) in 81 games. He hit 11 dingers while driving in 64 runs. Workman was back in Nashville the next season playing for manager Larry Gilbert. This time he batted .326 (179-for- 549) with a league-leading 29 home runs. Workman played in 145 games and collected 117 RBIs.
With the Braves in 1943, Workman played in 153 games batting .249 (153-for-615) with 10 home runs and 67 RBIs. The next year he appeared in 140 games and batted .208 with 1 round trippers. His breakout season came in 1945 where he slammed 25 home runs for Boston and batted .274. His home run total ranked Workman second in the National League. His one home run per 20.560 at-bats ranked first.
While batting .167, Workman was traded to Pittsburgh during the 1946 season. He returned to the minor leagues after a brief stay in Pittsburgh. One of his stops was back in Nashville in 1948. Playing in Sulphur Dell, the city's home park, Workman recorded a league-record 52 home runs (broken in 1954 by Nashville's Bob Lennon with 64) and SA leading 182 RBIs.
The Nashville Vols had a history of having their players lead the league in home runs. These include: Tex McDonald, eight home runs (1919); Dick Wade, 24 home runs (1928); Jim Poole, 33 home runs (1929); Jim Pool, 50 home runs (1930); Moose Clabaugh, 23 home runs (1931); Stanley Keyes, 35 home runs (1932); Dutch Prather, 23 home runs (1933); Doug Taitt, 17 home runs (1935); Doug Taitt, 20 home runs (1936); Willie Duke 19 home runs (1937); Gus Dugus, 22 home runs (1940); Charles Workman, 29 home runs (1942); Mel Hicks, 16 home runs (1944); Ted Pawelek, 15 home runs (1946); Charles Workman, 52 home runs (1948); Carl Sawatski, 45 home runs (1949); Jack Harshman, 47 home runs (1951); Bob Lennon, 64 home runs (1954) and Bob Hazle, 29 home runs (1955).
Sulphur Dell was partly responsible for the rise in home run production-for all teams. The book, The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1861, explains the uniqueness of the ballpark:
"In 1926, Nashville's existing ballpark was rebuilt, and the new diamond was put into what was once the outfield. New grandstands were also added to the complex, which was called Sulphur Dell in honor of the nearby Sulphur Springs. The changes created the most unusual ballpark in the minors. Among the oddities was the fact that first base was only 42 feet from the stands while third base was even closer at 26 feet. However, the most unusual feature of the park was its right field.
"When the right fielder went to take his position, immediately behind first base he began to climb. The incline was gradual at first, but got steeper, reaching 45 degrees before leveling off about 230 feet from the plate. Beyond a ten-foot shelf, the hill continued at the same steepness all the way to the fence, which was only 262 feet from the batter. Most fielders positioned themselves on the shelf, necessitating a pell-mell scramble down or a climb to further heights in order to retrieve the ball.
"Taking full advantage of the short right-field fence as never before, Nashville blasted its way to the 1948 pennant, beating Memphis by three games. Several single-season records were set by Vols batters including home runs and RBI, broken by Charley Workman (52, 182), and runs and walks shattered by Charles Gilbert (178, 155). The team also set a new league records in home runs (183) and runs (1,050)."
Workman died in Kansas City in 1953 at the age of 37. He died of internal bleeding caused by an ulcer. Workman's final season in baseball was with Atlanta in 1951. He had been working in Kansas City as a high school coach. In his five seasons in the Southern Association, Workman clouted 101 home runs. He hit 50 home runs in the major leagues while batting .242 in 1,749 games and 230 RBIs.
Upon his death, sports writer F.M. Williams of the Tennessean wrote:
"Charley Workman, who passed to the Great Beyond Saturday night, will forever live in the minds of Nashville baseball fans as one of their greatest home run hitters. Charley came here in late June 1941, after Gus Dugus broke his ankle sliding into second base in Atlanta. He finished that campaign and was a star on 1942 team, which won the Dixie Series as did the 1941 club. After spending the next five seasons in the majors and Triple-A leagues, Workman returned here in 1948 to set an all-time Southern league home run record. He hit 52 that year.
"Two years ago Charley started with Atlanta after being traded by Chattanooga. Larry Gilbert had an opportunity to bring him back here but turned it down. 'I would hate to have to tell him he was through,' Larry told me one day when I asked him why he didn't make the deal. Last time I saw Workman to talk with he was at Pensacola where Atlanta was training in the spring of 1951. He said then that he doubted if he could make it because the spring had gone out of his legs and baseballs looked like peas when he was at the plate. Less than two months later he wrote finis to a career that will long make the gangland, friendly Missourian live in Nashville minds."
On May 31, 1943, Chuck Workman (Cedar Rapids Raiders – 1940) went 3-5 at the plate with a homerun, two RBI and scored three runs in the Boston Braves 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field.
Chuck Workman hit .242 with 50 HR and 250 RBI during his six seasons in Major League baseball playing for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Chuck Workman hit .320 with 29 HR for the 1940 Cedar Rapids Raiders. The Raiders finished with a record of 74-51 under manager Ollie Marquardt. The 1940 squad took the Three-I League Championship defeating Springfield (3-0) in the opening round of the playoffs and then taking down Decatur (3-1) in the championship series.
|Jan. 6, 1915|
|Death:||Jan. 3, 1953|
Major League Baseball Player. Born Charles Thomas Workman, he made his debut as an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians on September 18, 1938. For six seasons, he played for the Cleveland Indians in 1938 and 1941, Boston Braves 1943 to 1945 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946. He ended his career with a record of 423 hits, 213 runs scored, 50 homeruns, 230 runs batted in, a .242 batting average and a lifetime .959 fielding percentage. (bio by: John "J-Cat" Griffith)
Geraldine E. Welbourne (1922 - 1988)*
Sunset Hill Cemetery