2018-04-12 / Sports

From outfield grass to putting greens

Baseball’s Best
By LAMAR GARRARD
Baseball historian

“It took me 17 years to get 3000 hits. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.” – Hank Aaron, Braves Hall of Fame legend

Now that the world’s most pres­tigious golf tournament is in the books, some additional facts have come to light on Samuel “Sammy” Dewey Byrd, a participant in five Masters golf tournaments, finishing third in 1941 and fourth in 1942.

Bryd is the only man ever to play in a World Series and play in the Masters, a feat that puts him in a category that may never be equaled. Sam was an outfielder for the New ork Yankees during the Babe Ruth days and made an appearance as a defensive sub for the Babe in game four of the 1932 World Series that saw the Yankees take the Cubs in four straight games.

The Bremen, Georgia, native Bryd would probably have been a starter on any major league club of the day except that the talent-laden Yankees had no room for him in the lineup. He was an above aver­age ballplayer as his lifetime bat­ting average of .274 indicates. Ap­pearing in 745 major league games, Byrd finished his baseball career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1936.

Before Byrd made it to the ma­jors, one of his teams was the 1927 Knoxville Smokies in the old Sally League. He had a strong year at the plate for the Smokies batting .331.

My good friend and writer for the Augusta Chronicle, Don Rho­des, researched Byrd and found that while playing for Knoxville, Byrd actually played in Augusta in 1927 at Warren Park against the Augusta Tygers (spelled that way at the time). In early May of 1927 in Augusta, Byrd hit a home run in the last game of a series with the score favoring Knoxville in a 28-6 blowout.

Soon after that, the two teams met again in Augusta for four games and Sam played center field at Warren Park on the exact same spot where the legendary Ty Cobb had started his professional baseball career in 1904. Don Rhodes found that Byrd actually played centerfield at the Augusta park several more games in 1927. The thought must have crossed his mind that he was walk­ing the ground where the game’s best player had gotten his begin­nings. Having played with Babe Ruth it can be stated that Mr. Byrd had ties to baseball’s two top play­ers, Ruth and Cobb. Per Rhodes, Byrd came to Augusta in March of 1937 to meet with the chairman of the PGA, Ed Dudley, at the Masters Tournament and returned to Phila­delphia with Dudley and became his assistant.

Unmistakably a gifted athlete, we now know that Samuel Byrd was a notable in Augusta, Georgia, in two professional sports. I think he stands alone again as the only man ever to play professional baseball in Augusta, much less New York, and to have played in the Masters.

It is gratifying to study the lives of players who excelled in two pro­fessional sports. Think about how hard it is to hit that little white ball off a tee and maybe harder to hit a curve ball that drops out of sight like a bullet right before your eyes. Well done, Mr. Byrd, you were one of a kind!

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