August 29 – Happy Birthday Ford Garrison

ford_garrisonTalk about getting off to a good start, in their first year of existence the 1938 Amsterdam Rugmakers won the Canadian American League Pennant by 7 games over second-place Cornwall with a sterling 79-40 record. Today’s Amsterdam Birthday celebrant played a huge role in the team’s success. Ford Garrison started in left field for manager Admiral Martin’s first place ball club and led the Rugmakers with 156 base hits, 25 doubles and 12 triples while belting 17 home runs and averaging a sparkling .327.

Born on August 29, 1915, Garrison loved his native state big time. In an interview with Jack Minnoch, he told the then Amsterdam Recorder Sports Editor that South Carolina turned out ballplayers about as easily as it converted cotton to textiles! With its large doses of Italian and Polish culture and foods, Amsterdam must have seemed a million miles away from Garrison’s hometown of Greenville but one thing was for sure, he felt right at home in batters box at Mohawk Mills Park.

As Rug City fans learned quickly, the downside of being a host city of a minor league ball club is that you don’t get to keep your best players for very long. After his stellar first season in professional ball, the Yankees promoted their 22-year-old prospect to their B-level team in Augusta, Maine. Garrison continued to perform well at every level of the Yankees’ farm system but his climb up the ladder was disrupted by service in the Navy during WWII. Not before however he became the first former Amsterdam Rugmaker in history to appear in a big league game when he started in center field for the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day of the 1943 season.

During his first year with the Red Sox, Garrison’s family had been hit by serious illness forcing the outfielder to take an advance on his salary to keep up with the medical bills. Connie Mack, the legendary manager of the Philadelphia A’s made a trade for Garrison during the beginning of the ’44 season. When he heard about the illnesses and loan he called his newest acquisition into his office and asked how his family was doing. When Garrison told him all were now healthy, Mack handed him an envelope with $1,500 cash inside, informed the player that the A’s had also paid off the money he had owed the Red Sox and told him he now had nothing to worry about except playing good ball for his new team. Garrison went out and had the greatest season of his four-year career in the big leagues.

He would return to the minor leagues full time by 1947 and continue playing at that level until 1956, when he hung up his glove for good. Garrison died in June of 2001 at the age of 85.

 

 

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