Henry Morgan “Hank” Gowdy
Born: August 24, 1889 - Columbus, OH
Died: August 1, 1966 - Columbus, OH
Career BA: .270
New York Giants NL (1910–1911, 1923–1925)
Boston Rustlers/Braves NL (1911–1917, 1919–1923, 1929–1930)
Coming up to the Giants for a short stint at first base at the end of the 1910 season, Texas Leaguer Hank Gowdy was advised by manager John McGraw to switch to catcher for more playing time as Fred Merkle was already entrenched at first base. After four at-bats early in the 1911 season, Gowdy moved to the Boston Rustlers to back up manager Fred Tenney at first base. The next season his team had a new name and a new manager, and Gowdy finally made the switch to catcher.
Manager George Stallings sent him to the minors to hone his skills in 1913, which was the turning point in his career. Gowdy did so well that he became the regular backstop for the Braves later that season. An integral part of the Braves amazing run to the World Series Championship in 1914, Gowdy proceeded to eat up American League pitching and batted a gaudy .545 in the Series. After a few successful seasons in Boston, his life changed forever in June of 1917. Hank Gowdy became the first Major League ballplayer to enlist during World War I. He served in the famed Rainbow Division, carrying the flag for the Fighting 42nd infantry and seeing fierce hand-to-hand combat in the trenches against the Germans. Gowdy returned from the conflict a famous and beloved war hero, and went on a speaking tour before continuing on with his baseball career.
After the Braves traded him to the Giants in 1923, Gowdy played in two World Series although he famously muffed a play in the 12th inning of Game 7 of the 1924 Series that cost the Giants the win. After he was released in 1925, Gowdy played in the minors before returning to coach and play with the Braves in 1929 and 1930. He coached for the Giants and Reds in the 1930s, and served Uncle Sam again during World War II. Major Gowdy served as the chief athletic officer at Fort Benning, where the playing field is now named after him. Hank Gowdy earned his place in baseball history as a very good catcher who distinguished himself as one of baseball’s first war heroes.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html