No better success story in American life has been written than that of Manager Billy Southworth of the Braves. It may not compare in stature with that of log-cabin presidents or captains of industry but the average small boy who is getting his first start playing baseball probably would prefer it to any you might mention.
Starting as a barefoot kid around Columbus, O., following his birth in Harvard, Neb., 55 years ago, Billy went through the small-boy phase of baseball playing until he became so good he was getting $5 a game when he was 15 years old and reached the pex of his success last October when he signed a five-year contract to manage the Boston Braves at $50,000 per annum.
It was our pleasure to see Billy break in with the Pittsburgh Pirates 30 years ago during the First World War, after he had had a brief trial with the Cleveland Indians three years previously. What impressed one most about him was his hustle. Billy was the personification of hustle and has been ever since.
"I had to hustle," commented Billy when asked what one thing had most to do with his success, "because I was a small fellow. This is a big handicap in trying to impress a big league manager. I knew I had to put out that much more and do things to attract attention than a fellow with better physical equipment."
"Therefore I made it my credo from the time I ever put on my first uniform, acquired by collecting soap coupons. These came around a bar of laundery soap that the mothers used (in) those days and I believe it took a bushel basketful in order to get the uniform. But I even hustled then; otherwise some kid would beat me to it.
"Hence, I got the hustling habit and have never gotten over it. While I was a player I didn't care what the other fellow did, I was out there giving it the old college try, no matter how badly we might be beaten, or how futile the prospects appeared of winning. And looking back, I think it paid off."
When you analyze Billy's career you can't help agreeing with him. He broke into professional baseball at the age of 17 years with the Portsmouth club of the Ohio State League, which was started by Bob Quinn, then business manager of the Columbus club of the American Association, and father of John Quinn, present general manager of the Braves.
From that time to the present, it's been Billy's life. And who can say it hasn't been a good one? Always remembering what a tough time he had breaking into professional baseball, Billy has always been solicitous about the young fellow that's come under his guidance.
"You don't have to have a good memory to recall the rebuffs you get as a youngster," observed Southworth, "because even Time doesn't eradicate those scars. I guess I was a little thicker-skinned than most boys of my age, otherwise I couldn't have taken it as I did.
"Anyway, I promised myself that if I ever became a manager, I would treat a boy better than I was treated. I think I have kept the faith in that respect. Perhaps I've been forced to release a boy because he didn't have the ability to make my club, but there's none can say that I didn't treat him with kindness and respect.
"It's always been my thought that every boy who is physically able should play baseball. I started my own boy playing shortly after he started to toddle around the house. It's my belief that a boy not only builds himself up physically but he learns to accept bumps that will help him along the road of life. It's still the national pastime. And the greatest game of all!"
year team lg W-L pct stdg 1929 St. Louis NL 43-45 .489 4th* 1940 St. Louis NL 69-40 .633 3rd** 1941 St. Louis NL 97-56 .534 2nd 1942 St. Louis NL 106-48 .688 1st 1943 St. Louis NL 105-49 .682 1st 1944 St. Louis NL 105-49 .682 1st 1945 St. Louis NL 95-59 .617 2nd 1946 Boston NL 81-72 .529 4th 1947 Boston NL 86-68 .558 3rd 1948 Boston NL 91-62 .595 1st 1949 Boston NL 75-79 .487 4th 1950 Boston NL 83-71 .539 4th 1951 Boston NL 28-31 .475 5th* Total 13 years 1064-729 .593 WORLD SERIES 1942 St. Louis NL 4-1 1943 St. Louis NL 1-4 1944 St. Louis NL 4-2 1948 Boston NL 2-4 Total 4 years 11-11 * Did not finish season as manager ** Did not start season as manager
Billy Southworth compiled a lifetime batting average of .297 in 13 major league seasons including three with the Boston Braves. His best season was 1926 when he batted .320 with 16 home runs in 135 games. Southworth began that season with the New York Giants and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in June.
In 1921 (when he hit .308) and 1923 (.319) Southworth was the Boston Braves' regular rightfielder. As a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1919 Southworth tied for the National League lead in triples with 14. He batted .333 in 12 World Series games for the 1924 Giants and the 1926 Cardinals.
Billy Southworth was born in Harvard, Nebraska on March 9, 1893 and died in Columbus, Ohio on November 15, 1969.