Saturday, August 15, 2009


I was out at Smokies Park about two weeks ago. The youth group from church went. SonicFlood was having a concert after the game. My son and I bought tickets in the bleacher section based on what the youth minister told me. The rest of the group showed up and somehow got tickets right behind home plate. We shortly joined them.

The Smokies pummeled the Carolina Mudcats, 11-1. Late in the game I sauntered up to the gift shop and found a book. I thumbed through it and immediately purchased it.

Schoolboy, Jim Tugerson, Ace of the '53 Smokies

This is a story of the most successful pitcher in organized baseball in 1953. Jim Tugerson won 29 regular season games and then another four in the post season.

Local author, R.S. Allen does a very nice job telling the story of Jim Tugerson. Schoolboy, along with his brother, Leander, were forced out of the Cotton States League and were optioned to Class D Knoxville, due to racial intolerance.

Even though Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier some six years before, the sentiment didn't carry down to the deep south.

Jim Tugerson had a storied life, before 1953 and after that year. He played with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1952, rooming with a young Hank Aaron. The Clowns won the Negro-American League Championship that year. After his stint in Knoxville, where he led the Smokies to the Mountain States League Championship, he returned to his native Florida where he became a member of the Winter Haven Police Department. In the last half of the 1950s he was allowed to take time from his duties and pursued baseball in Texas for a number of years.

In 1959 he retired from playing professional baseball and devoted his time to his career as a police officer. He did that until he died in 1983.

The book relies on personal remembrances by fellow players, newspaper accounts and documents from the Tugerson family. I wish that the author had used either footnotes or endnotes.

I like this this book because it shares a story of an underdog. It deals with real issues and doesn't hide behind pleasantries and sweep the unpleasant details under the rug. It also has sparked an interest in me because in 1953 the Smokies didn't play in Knoxville, but in Seymour, the town I live in. Chapman Highway Park, where the Smokies played that season, was located about 4 miles from my house. I'm trying to find a photo of the park and set up a meeting with one of Schoolboy's teammates.

It is a book worth reading and keeping in the library.

Some Jim Tugerson resources:

1 comment:

  1. That is awesome! Once I start getting paycheck's I'm definitely going to pick up a copy.

    Since you mentioned you had a son (but not what age), have you seen "Let Them Play"? It's a children's book about an African-American Little League team from Charleston, SC that went all the way to the Little League WS because no white team would play them. The WS folks didn't play the, either, and coincidentally Dixie Youth Baseball was founded the same year. I did a post on it here