Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

September 4, 2013

Mark Maynard: Thumbing across some history: 09/05/13

ASHLAND — Paul DeHart Sr. was thumbing through some old baseball cards at his son’s home near Columbus the other day and ran across one that he recognized from his childhood.

DeHart, 88, saw The Sporting News baseball card of Tommy Thevenow, a journeyman infielder who played from 1924-38 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Bees. He was a slick-fielding shortstop who was essentially the MVP of the 1926 World Series when the Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in seven games.

The light-hitting Thevenow was 10-for-24 against the Yankees and had a key two-run single in the fourth inning of Game 7 that put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 on the way to a 3-2 victory and the title.

Always a slick fielder, Thevenow was just that in the World Series, too. He batted .256 with 63 RBI in that 1926 season, which was one of his best in his 14-year career.

But DeHart remembered Thevenow as the manager of the Ashland Colonels of the Mountain State League that played games at Armco Field (also known as Association Athletic Field). As a 14-year-old, DeHart was a peanut vendor who would walk eight miles from 31st Street and Central Avenue in Ashland to Armco every day. Sometimes, on his way home, Thevenow would pick him up.

Of course, DeHart had no idea Thevenow had been a World Series hero or if he’d even played in the major leagues.

On Friday, Thevenow would have been 110 years old. He died at 53 in his hometown of Madison, Ind.

Thevenow epitomized the good-fielding/weak-hitting shortstops of that era, ending his career with a fielding percentage of .947, but a batting average of .248 while hitting only two home runs in his 15-year career. He hit two home runs in 1926, both inside-the-park home runs, and then never hit another one in his next 12 seasons, setting a major league record of 3,347 consecutive at bats without a home run, according to a Wikipedia entry.

What DeHart remembered, though, was Thevenow’s kindness in giving him a lift home.

“He saw me walking, recognized me and picked me up,” DeHart said.

DeHart, who played on the 1942 state champion Ashland Tomcat football team, said he never played a football game at Association Athletic Field.

But he watched many football and baseball games there and was amazed at how well George Menshouse kept the field.

He remembered how every blade of grass seemed to be cut to the same height and how clean the ballfield always was because of Menshouse, who had only one arm.

“The mound was a little bit high,” he said. “Some joked that was the reason they called it to the Mountain State League.”

The right-field line was 302 feet, but center field was 448 feet. It was 379 feet down the left-field line in the oddly designed ballpark.

“I saw many balls hit to center field that went for a home run because it was so far,” he said. “There was a flag pole in center field near the fence.”

DeHart was sitting in centerfield when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees played an exhibition game here in 1940.

He saw Alvin “Jake” Powell crash into the iron-backed wall, causing him to miss the first part of the season with the Yankees.

The great Joe DiMaggio came over and picked up the baseball and threw an absolute seed to the catcher, but it was a step late, DeHart said.

Meanwhile, Powell lay crumpled on the ground with an injury. He remained in King’s Daughters Hospital in Ashland for some time while recovering.

“The Dodgers were absolutely murdering the Yankees. Jake Powell was trying his best, leaping for the balls,” DeHart said.

However, the Yankees defeated the Dodgers, 7-6, in that exhibition.

Powell was a career .273 hitter who played until 1945. In November 1948, Powell was arrested in Washington, D.C., for passing bad checks. Distraught and mentally unstable, Powell pulled out a gun while in police custody and committed suicide.

Stan Musial played here, too, with the Williamson, W.Va., semi-pro team before he became a star with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The great Jim Thorpe was a player/coach for the Portsmouth Shoe Steels, who played here against Armco on Dec. 4, 1927. But Thorpe didn’t play or coach in that game because he was home dog-sitting.

Association Athletic Field would serve Ashland High School for a dozen football seasons before Tomcat Stadium, later to be called Putnam Stadium, was built with Works Progress Administration funds and opened in 1937.

DeHart can tell you all about Putnam Stadium, too, as a member of an undefeated team in 1942 when the stadium was only 5.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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