Born: August 17, 1913, Ragsdale, Alabama,
Died: February 5, 1970
Buried: Sunset Memory Gardens, Cartersville Georgia
- Began his baseball career on the ATCO Fields in 1929
- Played in three World Series and named to seven AL All Star teams
- Inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in three different states.
Hailed as ATCO’s “Home Run King”, Preston Rudolph “Rudy” York began his baseball career in 1929 at age fifteen on the ball fields of Atco, Georgia, a mill town on the western outskirts of Cartersville. (The Atco mill was purchased by the Goodyear Rubber Company in June 1929.) The “Supertwisters” were one of the founding members of the Northwest Georgia Textile League in 1931, an independent semi-pro league that included a number of teams from mill towns in the surrounding area, including those in Cedartown, Rockmart others around Rome, Georgia. . In 1933 York signed his first professional contract in Organized Baseball with the Southern Association’s Knoxville Smokies but played only three games before being released. After briefly playing with an independent team in Albany, Georgia, Rudy was signed to a minor league contract by Eddie Goosetree, a scout for the Detroit Tigers organization. York was sent to the Shreveport Sports of the Class C Dixie League, where he played in 12 games before being assigned to the Beaumont Exporters of the Class A Texas League for the final month of the 1933 season. York played sparingly for Beaumont in 1933; in 1934 he played with both Beaumont and the Fort Worth Panthers in the Texas League. Thanks to a bureaucratic mistake that prevented him from playing for Beaumont after August 1, Rudy was called up to the Detroit Tigers. Tiger manager Mickey Cochrane hoped Rudy would provide some power off the bench as the Tigers tried to clinch the 1934 AL pennant, but Rudy had only 6 at-bats with the Tigers during his time there. Returning to Beaumont for the 1935 season, York was moved out of the catcher’s spot to first base and proceeded to lead the league with 32 home runs and 117 runs-batted-in, earning him the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Playing for the Class AA (at that time, baseball’s highest minor league level) Milwaukee Brewers in 1936, Rudy earned another MVP award as he led the Brewers to the American Association championship by posting a .334 batting average, 37 home runs and 148 runs-batted-in.
In 1937 York made the Detroit Tigers opening day lineup as a third baseman. Benched midway through the season because of poor defense, the Tigers eventually moved Rudy back behind home plate in early August in order to get his powerful bat back in the lineup. Rudy proceeded to break Babe Ruth’s record of most home runs in a single calendar month by hitting eighteen home runs in August (a record he held until June 1998 when Sammy Sosa hit 20 home runs.) Rudy was moved to first base in 1940, and he was one of the few major league players who was not inducted into the military during WWII. (He was rejected during his physical exam due to a bad knee.)
In addition to the Tigers, Rudy would play for the Boston Red Sox (’46-’47), the Chicago White Sox (’47) and the Philadelphia Athletics (’48) during his 13 year major league career (although he only had 11 seasons in which he played at least 100 games). York played in three World Series (’40, ’45 and ’46; he was on the Tigers roster for the 1934 World Series but did not play) and was named to seven All Star teams. He hit .275 for his career with 277 home runs. York also patented the “Tracker” glove, and, in an odd aside, holds the unusual record of having broken two windows in the same car with two grand slams, for which he was written up in Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
Click to enlarge photos.
Following his release from the Philadelphia Athletics, York’s former teammate Hank Greenberg helped him land jobs as a player-manager for a number of lower-level minor league teams, including teams in Griffin (GA), Union City (TN) and Youngstown (OH)/Oil City (PA). In 1952 Rudy played for two semi-pro teams in Minnesota. Returning to Cartersville, Georgia, York took a job with the Forestry Commission as a firefighter and painted houses. Rudy worked briefly as a scout for the New York Yankees prior to getting a managing job for a short-season rookie league team in North Platte, Nebraska in 1957. In 1958, Rudy was hired as a minor league hitting instructor for the Boston Red Sox, and in 1959 he returned to the major leagues as a first-base coach for the Red Sox. Fired after the 1962 season, Rudy served as a coach for the Reading Red Sox in 1963 and as coach/manager for the Statesville Colts in the Western Carolina league in 1964. That was his last job in baseball.
Rudy died on February 5, 1970 from pneumonia, a side effect from an operation in the fall of 1969 that removed part of a cancerous lung. A year after his death, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter issued an official proclamation declaring August 17 as “Rudy York Day” in Georgia. The next year the city of Cartersville held a formal ceremony in which it dedicated York’s old playing field in Atco as “Rudy York Memorial Field.” A granite marker with a summary of Rudy’s career stands next to the field. Rudy was posthumously inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in three different states – Michigan (1972), Georgia (1977) and Alabama (1979).
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