Monday, 10 March 2008

Earl Sheely, RIP

[Vancouver Sun, Sept. 18, 1952]
Earl Homer Sheely was, in the narrowest sense of the term, a high-class baseball man. Among the executives of baseball clubs, high-class men form a tiny and dwindling group, a group that became smaller still yesterday with the death of the general manager of the Seattle Rainiers.
Baseball cannot afford to lose this kind of guy.
Earl Sheely rose from the ranks to become a successful front office executive. It was in that capacity that present day Vancouver fans got to know him, an honest and reliable guy who encouraged working agreements between the Capilanos and Rainiers.
But men touched with grey, men like Vancouver’s Bob Brown, recall ‘Whitey’ Sheely as one of the finest first-basemen in major league history. Brown recalls him even before that, in 1912, when Sheely was a raw-boned rookie out of Bushnell, Illinois, playing for Bob Brown’s Vancouver team.
Starred in a League of Stars
Sheely didn’t crash the major leagues until he was 27 and when he did make it with Chicago White Sox in 1921 an ankle injury nearly crashed his career.
Nut he recovered to star in a league loaded with stars like Earle Combs and Walter Johnson and Bucky Harris and Jimmy Foxx and Harry Heilman and Heinie Manush.
• • •
He was a consistent .300 hitter in a company of great hitters that included George Sisler and Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth and Goose Goslin and Eddie Collins.
In such company, Earl Sheely was among the best for eight summers. Later, in 1930, when he was a ripe 37, he was the best in the Coast League, pickling pitchers for a .403 average.
• • •
Earl Sheely could, with the exception of base-running, do all the things that stamp a major leaguer. He could hit and field and think, and genuine old-timers remember him as one of the greatest exponents of the ‘hit-and-run’ to ever hit behind a runner.
He Helped Gordie Brunswick
Wet-behind-the-ears newspaper men have no such recollection of Sheely. Us young-timers remember, instead, how happy he was to farm his son Bud out to Vancouver and later sell him to the modern Chicago White Sox.
He engineered several spectacular transactions at Seattle, one of them involving the sale of catcher Sammy White to the Boston Red Sox for $80,000 in cash and players.
• • •
Sheely’s hobby this past summer was to visit Vancouver and watch the young men he’d sent here to clout for the Capilanos. Young men like Gordie Brunswick, who is now clouting for Seattle.
Once, after a particularly disappointing evening at the plate, Brunswick said to him, bewildered-like: “Can’t figure out what’s wrong, Earl. I’m not hitting home runs like everybody says I should.”

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