Friday, December 05, 2008

Mormons in the Major Leagues

Major League baseball concluded the 2008 season more than a month ago, but now the Hot Stove League is in full swing. After a lengthy layoff from this blog, why not come back with a baseball entry as winter sets in? Here's one of the more unusual titles you'll find in baseball literature: Mormons in the Major Leagues: Career Histories of 44 LDS Players, by Jim Ison; Action Sports, Cincinnati, 1991.

I was actually surprised to learn about which players were Mormon. Many, I grew up watching or following and never once heard anything about them being Mormon. Quite simply, it was not relevant to hitting, itching, fielding or anything else baseball. So why this book?

You'd have to ask the author, but he acknowledges in the book that this project (writing the book) began out of boredom with all the sports card shows he was attending with his kids. He began collecting cards of Mormon ballplayers as a diversion and the interest grew and dveloped into the idea for a lengthy treatment of the subject. I would assume the author is Mormon also. Either that or he came across a Mormon ballplayer and wondered how many others were of that faith.

Not all Mormons who played at the big league level wanted to be included in this book for various reasons, and the author has honored their requests. I found it interesting that one of my Houston Astros players, Alan Ashby (a fan favorite in Houston for years), was Mormon. Had no idea. And there is another Houston Astro connection: Ron Brand, the first Astro to get a base hit in the Astrodome, is also Mormon. Others around both leagues could almost fill an All-Star roster: Harmon Killebrew, Wally Joyner, Dennis Eckersley, Dale Murphy (him, I knew about), and Jack Morris. Pictures of some of these players follow.

Harmon Killebrew

Dale Murphy

Dennis Eckersley

Alan Ashby

Ron Brand

UPDATE: Thanks to Ron at (see comments below), I remembered something I meant to include in this entry. Spencer Adams was the first Mormon to play in the Major Leagues. He played in back-to-back World Series; 1925 for the Washington Senators and 1926 for the New York Yankees. He got to room with Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri. There are a couple of interesting anecdotes in the book I should share.

Quoting the author verbatim: When Babe Ruth was on a trip to Utah, he was asked whether he knew Spencer Adams. Babe said, "Sure I do, he was the best poker player in the American League." This unexpected praise had its origin in a train car carrying the Yankees to a game. The Babe was engaged in a favorite pastime, playing poker. When he needed to leave game temporarily, he said to Spencer, "Hey Rookie, sit in for me." When Babe returned, he was $300 richer!

A second anecdote involved the great Ty Cobb, as mean a player as there ever was. He regularly sharpened the steel spikes on his shoes and intentionally tried to spike any fielder trying to tag him out on the base paths. One game, he came in hard against Spencer Adams at second, spikes flying. Adams held his ground, got the out, and paid for it with scars across his chest that lasted the rest of his life. As Cobb started to leave the field after the play, an angry Adams threw the ball at Cobb, missing his head by inches. This cleared both benches and triggered a screaming response from Cobb: "The base path is mine. If you're in the way, I'll kill you!" And despite Cobb's violent actions, Adams always regretted losing his temper with him that day. Sounds like a class act, but Cobb deserved to get conked on the noggin.


  1. Check out my page and see the baseball pages you will see e3ven more players thanks Ron

  2. Excellent site. Thanks for the link, Ron--I enjoyed it! Reminded me of what I meant to include in this entry--Spencer Adams. Will update.

  3. Wow I've been a Twins fan for 45 years and never realized Harmon Killebrew was a Mormon - not that it really matters. He is probably the nicest man who ever lived.

  4. Just found out that Killebrew has cancer through I did not know he was a Mormon. I found this entry after doing a search online to find out more about him. I would love to read this book.

  5. Sad to hear that about Killebrew--he was one of my favorite players growing up. Check out for copies of this book. Thanks for the info.