Tuesday, June 7, 2005

james atkins - boston red sox - 1950, 1952

October 16, 2001

Cullman, Alabama

James Atkins pitched 4 2/3 innings in 1950 and another 10 1/3 in 1952 for the Boston Red Sox for a total of 15 career Major League innings. In those 15 innings he gave up 15 hits, walking 11 while striking out two. His record was 0-1 over 4 games with a career ERA of 3.60.

Q: Tell me where you grew up and when you first started playing baseball.

A: I grew up in Acipco and we played Y ball. I guess I was nine or ten years old, and I played there until I got sixteen and at sixteen I started playing in the men’s league there in Birmingham, with Ball Paley Grocery in North Birmingham.

Q: Where’s Acipco?

A: It’s still there where it was to start with. It’s a big plant there on the north side of Birmingham as you’re coming up I-65.

Q: Did your father work for Acipco?

A: No, he was a railroad man. There used to be the Acipco School, but there’s a vacant lot there now.

Q: But if they had an Acipco School then most of your classmates’ fathers worked for that plant.

A: Most of them, yeah.

Q: When you’re nine or ten years old and you’re playing Y ball, are you the best player on the team?

A: Well, now we had several good ballplayers. I guess I was one of the best. We had Tom Hutto, a catcher that played pro ball, then we had a boy in the outfield, Jack Wayne, and he played some pro ball. There were three or four fellows on there that played pro ball.

Q: So I imagine your team won a lot.

A: Oh yeah. When I started out with them I was a third baseman, then the boy that pitched the games for us broke his arm and I took over and started pitching. I doubt that I lost more than three games the whole time. Back then we’d go out there and play scrub ball until the game started, then we’d play the game, and then start back in scrub ball. The plant at Acipco – of course they had a senior team and a junior team and then we were put out there – they kept the ballfield, and I guess they had a regular crew that worked the tennis courts and the senior ball diamond and the junior ball diamond, and I imagine that they did the work on the fields as well as they had out at Rickwood. We would go out there and play and it was all lined off and everything, then when we’d get through playing we’d have a locker at the Y. We’d go down there and they’d give us a towel and a bar of soap and furnish all the bats and balls and all like that and, of course back then, during the Depression, not many of us had shoes to wear. We’d play barefoot and all like that.

Q: When you’re a kid, are you playing other sports in addition to baseball?

A: Basketball.

Q: You’re a tall man.

A: I was then. I was the center. I was 6’ 3”. I’ve got a clipping over there where we beat a team 70-1.

Q: Were you as good at basketball as you were at baseball?

A: Well, I scored pretty good. We had one fellow that was usually the high scorer but I’d be in there about the second or third scorer in every ball game.

Q: Did you like baseball better than basketball?

A: Oh yeah. Well, I tell you the truth. I was thirteen and the man that managed our ballclub, his brother was Clay Bryant that pitched in the high minors. In 1938 he was with the Cubs and won twenty ballgames. Now our manager was supposed to have been a better ballplayer but he threw his arm out. But he got in touch with Bruce Hayes in New Orleans, and we went over to the ballfield at Acipco, and I was just going to warm up, so to speak, and the guard came out there and chased us off so we went over to the schoolground to try to throw some, and the principal of the school came out there and chased us off and so the man found out then that I was thirteen, and he said, Well, I’ll come back and see you when you’re sixteen.

james atkins - part two
james atkins - part three
james atkins - part four
james atkins - part five

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