Monday, February 22, 2010

#26 Bill Terry

"Memphis" Bill Terry was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1898. The product of a broken home, his parents separated when Terry was in his early teens. He was tough and independent, and landed a job in a railyard at age 15. In 1915, Terry signed with the Atlanta Crackers as a pitcher. He moved around the minor leagues over the next few years, pitching and playing first base to keep his powerful bat in the lineup. He even pitched a no-hitter for Newnan in the Ga-Ala League. In 1918, with World War 1 brewing, and his young bride expecting, Terry quit baseball and took a job with a storage battery company in Memphis, where his wife and in-laws lived. Terry took a job with Standard Oil in 1920, and played on the company semi-pro team. It was there that Terry was spotted by Kid Elberfield, who contacted John McGraw. McGraw was passing through Memphis in April of 1922 as the major league teams headed north after spring training. Terry signed with McGraw and the Giants, and was assigned to Toledo.

He joined the New York Giants in 1923, and quickly became one of the league's deadliest hitters as well as one of its smartest players. He batted .319 in 1925, his first full season as the Giants' first baseman. He batted .372 in 1929, but that was just a taste of what was coming. In 1930, he enjoyed his finest season, rapping out a NL-record 254 hits and batting .401, the last player in the senior circuit to bat that high in a season. He followed that season with a .349 and .350 season. After falling to .322, he rebounded to hit .354 in 1934 and .341 in 1935.
Aside from being the last NL player to hit .400, Terry is also known as the man who replaced John McGraw as the manager of the Giants. McGraw stepped down in 1932 (on the same day Lou Gehrig homered four times, thus stealing Gehrig's headlines) and was dead within a year. Terry lead the Giants to a pennant in 1933 and 1936, his last season as a player. He batted .341 lifetime and both scored and knocked in over 1000 runs.
Terry lead the Giants to another pennant in 1937, and remained manager for the Giants through 1941. In retirement, Terry was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1954. A very successful speculator and business man, e moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where opened up a successful car dealership. This allowed him to purchase the Jacksonville AA club, as well as many other business interests. He stayed in Jacksonville for the remainder of his life, dying in 1989 at 90 years of age.

The Autograph: Despite his big stature in his time, Terry always had time for his fans. I like the way he writes his name out: "Wm. H (Bill) Terry". Very offical and proper, with the "Wm." but adds the "Bill" so you know it isn't an autograph of Willy Terry. (PLEASE don't google "Willy Terry"... you will regret it. I know I do.)

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