Out On The Mudline

Sam Vick Steps Up To Plate For Injured Babe Ruth

By W. P. Sissell

The Minors

As we left Sam last week he was on his way from Mississippi State to Memphis. The offer from Memphis was just too much to turn down.  This young man, from out in the southeastern part of Panola county, had a lot of qualities.  Perhaps the most impressive one was that he was a perfectionist.  Most likely this came from his Dad who worked hard with his boys trying to get them to want to excel.  This was far from the end of Sam’s story.

Sam started the year with Memphis, a minor league team which schooled players for the major leagues.  Before long the New York Yankees were in the bidding for Sam Vick and finally got his signature, with a provision that his contract, one year, did/would prevail and he would finish the year with Memphis (I’m sure that the Memphis team was the Chicks but Conner did not state that in his talk).

The Majors

It is sometimes said “everything that goes around comes around.”  I do not know the why of that cliche but listen to the following. First of all keep in mind that Sam’s signature cost the Yankees the amazing sum (in that day) of $4200.  Sam and brother Atheral married Monteith sisters.  The brother of those sisters, Robert, had two sons Robert (Bobby Gene) and my good friend Ralph.  Bobby Gene’s daughter, Patricia, (came and visited her grandparents in the summer and spent time in our home), married Jake Gibbs—standout quarterback at Ole Miss—but signed with the Yankees as a catcher.  His signature cost the Yankees $100,000.  It’s all in the family.

When Sam went up to the Yankees, Miller Huggins was the manager.  That first year Sam batted 308—to you who do not interpolate that rapidly—it means that he got a hit about every third time he batted.  It is “ratheeeeer” good for a rookie.  Sam had heard many stories about Ty Cobb.  Now he heard that his nickname was “The intimidator.”  To Sam, Mr. Cobb didn’t seem so bad. He thought, to himself, “I’ll fool him.”  Sam’s ruse didn’t work and he was easily tagged out.

The big hitter for the Yankees at that time was “Terrible Swinger,” Babe Ruth. On most occasions he was a pitcher.   When the Babe swung it was almost always “from the ground up.” There were some occasions when the Babe did not get a home run, only a base hit. On one occasion the Babe was attempting to stretch a double—into a triple.  As usual he was running, and slid into third with everything he had in him.  In the melee at third base the Babe got a severe tear on a leg.  The injury was so severe that he had to be taken out of the game. At the next turn at bat, when Babe was supposed to bat, Sam had replaced him.  The fans booed.  They wanted the Babe. It affected Sam so that Manager Huggins had a long talk with him telling him not to worry.  

Other

At one time when Sam was playing for the Yankee’s one of the pitchers for Cleveland was Willie Mitchell from Sardis who Sam had known in the summer leagues back home.  

While playing in New York Sam was called into the armed service.  He reported to Camp Pike on May the eleventh.  He was discharged January sixth of the following year in time for spring training.  Sam played three years without experiencing a slump.  Suddenly he went without a hit for two weeks.  

Sam spent his last days with the Boston Red Sox.  When he got there he held out for more money than was offered.  The hold-out  ended in a stalemate and he took a position as playing manager with the minor league team in Little Rock.  Do you remember what the high school team that Sam played for did? At Little Rock Sam’s team won the Little World Series.  Nashville lured Sam there.  In the second year at Nashville the team won the Little World Series. Sam decided to retire although Mobile was trying very hard to get him but Sam held firm and came home to his peach trees.

His son, Conner, wound up his story about his father with—he was a motivator, a generator, an activator, a perfectionist—he could get the best out of a boy.  

Thank you for the material Mrs. Stewart.  You are one of several who have called asking to give me some further information about Sam Vick. I do appreciate the additional sources. I have used notes taken from a talk by his son, Conner.  My main connection with Mr. Sam has been having one of his grandsons as a student at Northwest Mississippi Community College several years ago.

After the gloomy past few days all I can see outside my “computer room” window is bright sunshine.  Our wish for you is a happy week.  You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, wsissell@bellsouth.net, or 662-563-9879.

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