Loran Smith: Remembering Charlie Bagby

Home >

Loran Smith: Remembering Charlie Bagby

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

You would have to be something of a seasoned historian or a baseball aficionado with a bent toward gleaning the lore of ole timers to recall the father-son pitchers of the Jim Bagby families.

The senior Bagby was born in Barnett, 51 miles west of Augusta, a little more than a long toss from Interstate 20.  He played nine years in the Big Leagues, and his son, Jim Jr., born in Cleveland when the father was pitching for the Indians, spent 10 years in the majors—bringing about one of the most successful father-son combinations in baseball history.





In something akin to a threepeat, Junior’s son, Charlie, was a two-sport student-athlete at Georgia, a basketball forward and a first baseman-pitcher in baseball. He excelled as fluently and noteworthy as a student as he did in competition.

While Charlie, who competed with thick black goggles, did not make it in the NBA or the Major Leagues, he was one of the most accomplished student-athletes at UGA—one who was linked to the Greek philosophy of paideia which embraced the concept of importance of the well-rounded man.  Like Tommy Lawhorne, Billy Payne, Terry Hoage, and the late Dr. Alec Kessler, Charlie was an unrelenting competitor who was just as eager to enter a classroom as he was a locker room.

It was just as important to Charlie to score an A in class as it was for him to fire a shot off from the corner that stripped the net in basketball or come with a timely base hit that drove in baserunners in baseball.





In my mind’s eye I can see Charlie scrapping, without concern for life or limb, on the basketball court and swinging a baseball bat with measured intensity to drive in runs that made his coach Jim Whatley grin.

Those scenes, among many others, flashed front and center last weekend in my mind’s eye when I heard the news that Charlie had passed away at his home in Tampa.

While he would not bring up the subject, Charlie enjoyed sharing stories about his familial baseball heritage.  His grandfather, Jim Bagby Sr., nicknamed “Sarge” was the first pitcher to hit a homerun in the modern World Series.  Ty Cobb, Sarge’s fellow Georgian who many proclaim was baseball’s greatest player, once said that Sarge was the “smartest pitcher he ever faced.”

Charlie’s father, Bagby junior, will be remembered as the pitcher who ended Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak at 56 games. The Yankee Clipper came to bat for the last time in the 8th inning at Cleveland when Bagby forced him to hit into a double play, ending the streak on July 17, 1941.

If you consult the Internet and the “Society for Baseball Research,” you will find many interesting facts about the Bagby’s who remain one of the most successful of father-son stories in the history of sports.

They played the game for the love of baseball as much as anything and had little to show for it.  Those were the days when players literally played for peanuts.

Players of that era were not beneficiaries of million-dollar contracts. There was no pension plan.  Marvin Miller had not yet been engaged by the player’s union.

In fact, there is a story on the Internet that when Jim Bagby was invited to an Ole Timer’s game in New York when he was employed at Lockheed in Marietta, he declined.  The reason?  He did not own a suit of clothes.

Had Jim Jr. and Sarge had the benefit of an education—as Charlie did—how much would that have enhanced their baseball earnings?   Charlie, nicknamed “The Cobb County Cobra,” by his teammates, was certainly an accomplished athlete.  He was captain of his basketball team at Georgia in 1964 and made the All-SEC Academic team.

Lettering three years in baseball as a pitcher and first baseman, Charlie hit .455 and led the team in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP and ERA in 1962.  He was named to the National Baseball Congress All-America team at the 32-team national tournament in Wichita, Kansas in 1963.

He passed all four parts of CPA exam before graduation.  He was a member of Sphinx, the highest honor a male student could attain, Blue Key, Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Gamma Sigma, Phi Eta Sigma and President of Beta Alpha Psi honorary accounting society, graduating cum laude in 1964.

Charlie did not make it to the Big Leagues as his forebears did, but he was just as accomplished as his famous father and grandfather.  





share content