Georgia Tech baseball in the early twentieth century

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Georgia Tech baseball saw many changes in the early twentieth century. There have been several coaches, a mix of both winning and losing seasons, as well as a shift from a weak baseball program to a serious one.

Contents

The Beginning

Georgia Tech's first baseball team formed in the year 1895. At the time, baseball was considered to be the country's "national pastime" and was the country’s most popular sport. However, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets would have to work hard to be taken seriously as a worthy opponent. It was not until thirty-five years later when the Jackets even had their own home field. Before that time, the baseball team rode a trolley to practice at a nearby park or field.

Today, baseball might seem like a trivial or second rate sport compared to all the hype and energy that is put towards football, but that was the opposite in the early twentieth century America. Baseball was the "football" of early twentieth century United States. Therefore, it is modest to say that Georgia Tech’s involvement with baseball helped it rise to become the popular university it is today. Baseball helped Georgia Tech financially, and not solely in terms of conventional ticket sales and concessions.[1]

Financial Troubles

In 1900, large amounts of money were spent towards the football season in hopes of high dividends. Unfortunately, the profits from this season did not match the fiscal expectations. Michael Cole, the head of the Georgia Tech Athletic Association at the time, had to come up with a way to counter the deficit. The situation was exacerbated when Cole was denied monetary aid from Lyman Hall,the president of Georgia Tech, at the time. This could have prematurely ended Georgia Tech’s athletic department.

Fortunately, the Georgia Tech baseball team achieved a large amount of publicity and press coverage with the help of Jacques Futrelle, the sports editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution at the time. This publicity lead to a dramatic increase in the attendance of Georgia Tech baseball games. This upsurge provided funding for the entire Georgia Tech Athletic Association ,and eliminated the debt from the football season that year. Without baseball, athletics at Georgia Tech would have undoubtedly been put on hold. Hence, delaying the advancement of Tech’s athletics or even shut down entirely. Thanks to these events, baseball at Georgia Tech became popular ,and gathered a lot of interest from the community.[2]

Early Controversies

In 1904, the Georgia Tech Baseball team appointed a new coach, John Heisman. Heisman coached both the football and baseball team. As odd as this may seem, having one person to coach to different sports, both teams actually had their first winning season under Heisman's leadership. The 1906 season yielded mediocre results, but the team still believed they had completed a successful season. A year later, the team won the Pennant Championship, which was awarded by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as well as the state championship. This victory was not without several controversies following it. Two games that season were contested. In one instance, there was dispute over an umpire decision in a game against Mercer University. Georgia Tech lobbied for the game to be thrown out, and the decision was granted.

Another incident occurred at a game game against the University of Georgia(UGA). That season, Georgia Tech was scheduled to play against the University of Georgia twice. During the first game, UGA's athletic director became infuriated over a call the umpire had made. He accused the umpire of fraud, and said that his team would not play the next game the following day unless the first game was replayed or thrown out like the Georgia Tech vs. Mercer game. Georgia Tech was willing to send the game to a panel review ,but UGA refused to do so. Subsequently, Georgia Tech and UGA did not play the second game that season. This dispute between Tech and UGA was so great that the two teams did not play against each other the following two years in baseball nor any other athletic competition. This dispute between Tech and UGA is one of the events that contribute to the rivalry between these two universities that still lasts to this day.[3]

Coaches

Samuel Strang Nicklin
Samuel Strang Nicklin (December 16, 1876 - March 13, 1932) was a utility player for the Louisville Cardinals, Chicago Orphans, New York Giants, Chicago White Sox, and the Brooklyn Superbas. In 1905, Nicklin played with the Giants, the same year that they won the World Series. Nicklin became Georgia Tech’s baseball coach in 1902[4]

In 1906, John Heisman replaced Nicklin as Tech’s baseball coach. Before arriving at Georgia Tech, Heisman coached at Oberlin College, Buchtel College, and Auburn University. Although Heisman was a prominent college baseball coach, football was where Heisman is most notable.[5]

In 1946, Tech hired another baseball coach, Joe Pittard. Pittard coached baseball at Georgia Tech for sixteen years. He was recognized in Helms Baseball Hall of Fame, the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, as well as the State of Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame. Pittard brought a total of 169 baseball victories at the end of his coaching career.[6]

The Big Leagues

Weldon Henley

In 1903, only 8 years after the first basball team was formed at Tech, Weldon Henley became the first Georgia Tech Alumni to play major league baseball. Henley played for the Philadelphia Athletics. Currently, 45 athletes have made it to the major leagues since baseball first arrived at Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech Alumni have played with major league teams throughout the United States, such as the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians.[7]

The 1925 Season

The 1925 Georgia Tech's baseball season was victorious overall, but flawed with the loss to their arch rivals at University of Georgia. During this season, Georgia Tech played some of the most challenging teams from the South, as well as other difficult ones from the North and the East. Throughout this season, Tech managed to secure 14 wins and seven losses. The first game of the season against Clemson was a successful one with a score of 4-0. As the season came to an end, Tech was leading the conference. When Tech came to play UGA, UGA defeated Tech in the first series with score of 4-0 as well as the second series with a score of 7-3. In the return series, Tech defeated UGA with a close score of 10-9 but lost the second game of the series with a score of 6-4. Despite the losses, Georgia Tech was still considered a champion that year though not a true victory to some due to the losses to UGA.

Importance of Early Baseball

Although football is now a sport more closely followed than baseball, baseball is still an important part of Georgia Tech. It may not have the large fan base that football has garnered over the years but that is not to say that there is no fan base. Georgia Tech fans still enjoy watching the Yellow Jackets bring home another victory no matter what the sport may be. These victories built up a legacy through the skill and determination of the teams through the years, which started started with the first Georgia Tech baseball team in 1895.

Relevant Source Summaries

References

  1. (3 Oct. 2010). In Georgia Tech Archives and records management Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://www.library.gatech.edu/archives/finding-aids/display/xsl/MF001
  2. (3 Oct. 2010). In Georgia Tech Archives and records management Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://buzzpedia.lcc.gatech.edu/wiki/index.php/Source_Summary:_How_Baseball_Saved_Athletics
  3. (3 Oct. 2010). In Georgia Tech Archives and records management Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://www.library.gatech.edu/archives/finding-aids/display/xsl/MF001
  4. (3 Oct 2010). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sammy_Strang
  5. (3 Oct 2010). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Heisman
  6. (3 Oct. 2010). In Buzzpedia the free Georgia Tech Encyclopedia Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://buzzpedia.lcc.gatech.edu/wiki/index.php/Joe_Pittard
  7. (11 Sept 2010). In Baseball Almanac Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://www.baseball-almanac.com/college/georgia_institute_of_technology_baseball_players.shtml

Victor Novoa

Section A2

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