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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Would Korean War Casualty Carl Tumlinson Have Replaced the Ageing Pee Wee Reese as the Dodgers SS?

Gary Bedingfield’s latest…

The Dodgers Hall of Fame shortstop, Pee Wee Reese, played his last full season at that position in 1956, aged 37. Charlie Neal (1957) then Don Zimmer (1958) were his immediate replacements. Not until the emergence of Maury Wills in 1960 did the Dodgers have a shortstop who, in any way, resembled the great Pee Wee.

One name that never comes to mind when thinking of Dodger shortstops is Carl Tumlinson. Why? Because Tumlinson never made it to the big league team. Not because he lacked talent – he had that in abundance – but because military service intervened, shattering his hopes and dreams, and ultimately taking his life.

...In 1952, the 20-year-old advanced to the Elmira Pioneers of the Class A Eastern League. He got off to a great start and was hitting .314 by mid-May. Then he recieved his army draft notice to report for military duty in July. Tumlinson’s season ended right at the moment he opened that letter. He knew he woundn’t be back playing baseball until at least 1953, maybe even later.

He pretty well went through the motions until it was time to leave the club. In his last game (June 18), batting in his usual number three spot, Tumlinson went 1-for-5, hitting a double in the sixth inning against Albany’s Stan McWilliams. He headed home to his parents in Phoenix, having played 53 games and allowing his batting average to slip to an uncharacteristic .258 with five home runs. His replacement at shortstop was Bob Lillis, who batted just .203 for the remainder of the season but went on to enjoy a 10-year big league career.

On July 4, 1952, Tumlinson left Phoenix to return to Elmira, New York, where he was inducted in the Army on July 8. Private Carl Tumlinson served in Korea with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regimental Combat Team. He was killed in action on April 7, 1953, having been in military service for onlynine months.

Carl Tumlinson’s career spanned just three seasons. He played 267 games and batted .289 with 25 home runs. Don Zimmer had been Elmira’s shortstop the year before Tumlinson was there. Zimmer reached the majors in 1954 and stayed for 12 years. Charlie Neal, who had been Tumlinson’s teammate at Elmira in 1952, joined the Dodgers in 1956 and played eight years in the majors. Maury Wills, six months younger than Tumlinson, was playing Class D ball at Hornell in 1952. He reached the big leagues in 1959 and played for 14 years. Would Carl Tumlinson, a kid from Phoenix, Arizona, have been the replacement for Pee Wee? I think he might have been.

Repoz Posted: February 21, 2013 at 01:48 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers, history

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. vortex of dissipation Posted: February 21, 2013 at 02:29 PM (#4373413)
Baseball in Wartime is one of my favorite sites on the web.
   2. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 21, 2013 at 02:49 PM (#4373423)
This is a sad story.

In 1951 as a 19-year-old in C ball, Tumlinson led the team in BA had a SLG 68 points higher than anyone else on the team, and 118 points higher than anyone with more than 155 at bats. Only two batters on that team ended up with MLB experience, and neither was very good or played very long, so it's hard to compare him that way.

Even with the mediocre final numbers in his last season at Elmira, he outslugged Charlie Neal (who was a year older) by 66 points, and also outhit Bob Lillis (wow, that's what a terrrible MLB hitting line looks like) and a couple of guys with short careers. I mean, who knows what would have happened, but this was a guy with a very good shot at a MLB career of some sort, and a reasonable shot at it being a productive one.

The baseballsgreatestsacrifice.com page on Tumlinson has a great phrase from a newspaper story: The Dodger shortstop rapped out 10 hits in 21 times at bat to boost his mace mark to .373 [...] "Mace mark" is a great and stupid phrase.
   3. Jay Z Posted: February 21, 2013 at 08:09 PM (#4373659)
Anyone know what % of drafted players played service ball? Service teams were a common destination for drafted baseball and football players in the 1950s. Was Tumlinson just unlucky or did was he not enough of a prospect to attract attention? Or maybe it was a hardass on his local draft board that influenced assignments?
   4. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: February 21, 2013 at 08:57 PM (#4373672)
While we're on the subject, Bob Neighbors.
   5. BDC Posted: February 21, 2013 at 09:56 PM (#4373688)
Dodger-organization shortstops can't help but remind my of my late friend and colleague Lyle Olsen – the Dodgers just had a lot of great pro ballplayers stacked up in their system in those years.

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