Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
Riding the coat-tails of a triple crown winner, this Piedmont League champion won their pennant, seemingly in effortless style. In doing so, they became the only triple-digit winner in the league’s history.
In 1908, the Hornets became a charter member of a new Class D circuit, the Carolina Association. In five years, the team finished as high as second only once. When the loop was renamed the North Carolina State League in 1913, the Hornets had slightly better luck, finishing percentage points behind Winston-Salem in 1914, before winning the title outright in 1916 with a record of 68-44. After a six-week season in 1917, the league ceased operations for the season.
Following World War I, Charlotte linked up with the South Atlantic League--an established Class C league. In their first season (1919), the team narrowly missed a flag, finishing one game behind Columbia. After the league was upgraded to Class B in 1921, Charlotte won a pennant in 1923 followed by another pair of one-game misses in 1924 and 1925.
When the South Atlantic League failed to answer the bell for the 1931 season, the Hornets immediately jumped ship to another circuit - the Class C Piedmont League. Here, the team enjoyed immediate success as they rolled to a crushing victory, finishing with a 100-37, .730 record. The Hornets finished 13 ½ lengths ahead of Raleigh who they also dispatched in the playoffs, four games to two. The team as a whole sported the best average (.299), scored the most runs (926), collected the most hits (1,403) and clubbed the most home runs (102).
The Hornets were led by 33-year-old player/manager, Guy Lacy, who had played 13 games for the 1926 Indians. He took his regular turn in the lineup by holding down the second base position and batted .311. Lacy, whose full name was Oceola Guy Lacy, was a lifelong resident of Cleveland, Tenn., whose playing career spanned a quarter-century, 1916-41. This was only his second year as manager. He had piloted Richmond in 1925 and he continued to manage teams in the South until World War II.
The 1931 Hornets were paced at the plate by a brace of .300 hitters, none better than 23-year-old 5’10”, 160-pound Frank Packard, third baseman-outfielder from Pittsburgh, PA. Packard won the Triple Crown by leading the league in hitting (.366), home runs (21) and RBI (123). In addition, he achieved league highs in runs (145), hits (185), total bases (313), triples (17) and slugging (.620). Charlotte fans dubbed him “What-A-Man” Packard in recognition of his exploits and that’s how he was known in North Carolina the rest of his life. In 1932, Packard jumped all the way to Baltimore (International) where he had another fine season, batting .313 with 28 homers and 98 RBI.
In “The Independent Carolina Baseball League,” Hank Utley and Scott Verner said: “Charlotte Observer columnist Bob Quincy wrote (in 1982) that the one flaw keeping Packard from the major leagues was a lack of discipline. ‘Socially, Packard would give blood before he’d turn down a party. He had a built-in radar to locate every speakeasy in town. Packard could discover soft lights, hard drink and pretty girls behind dusty doors or up broken elevator shafts at all hours of day and night.’
Packard told Quincy that (in 1932) Baltimore, knowing his reputation, had him shadowed by a detective. But he blamed his drinking and a chance encounter for missing the majors. On hearing that he had been bought by the New York Giants, he went drinking at a speakeasy in Newark to celebrate. ‘The Giants’ head scout walked in, saw me and went back and killed the deal,’ he told the Charlotte News in 1982.” That was his last good year. In 1933 he was with five teams, Baltimore, Jersey City, Minneapolis, Williamsport and Charlotte. He played only 14 games in 1934 and 29 games in 1935. He settled in Charlotte and from 1936-38 was a manager and club owner in the independent Carolina League. Utley and Verner say that Packard married a local girl in 1937 and credited her with straightening out his life. He was an athletic director in the Navy during World War II and coached the Davidson College team for a year after the war. He was in the carpet business in Charlotte for many years. In 1982 he was named one of six charter members of the Charlotte Baseball Hall of Fame, along with former major league stars Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Hoyt Wilhelm.
Packard was aided by first baseman Jimmy Hudgens (.290-20-103), shortstop Vern Brandes (.335) and outfielder George Rhinehardt (.325). Augmenting his fine average, Brandes also scored 144 runs and stole a circuit-high 44 bases. Of the group, only Hudgens saw time in the majors, batting .282 for the Browns and Reds in 1923, 1925-26.
The Hornets’ best-known player was right-hander Charles (Struttin’ Bud) Shaney, who led the league in wins (24-10). Shaney, a 31-year-old native of New Albany, Ind., had starred for Asheville (Sally) for five years in the 1920s and made that city his permanent home. In his 1991 history of baseball in Asheville, veteran sportswriter Bob Terrell wrote, “Struttin’ Bud Shaney was the toughest pitcher to pitch here. He was a magnificent hurler. In those roaring days of the twenties, the ball club would sometimes fall a little short of cash and if a payday happened to be coming up, the club would simply announce that Shaney would pitch a doubleheader, fill the park, and make its payroll. As often as not, Shaney would win both ends of those doubleheaders. He never got a chance to pitch in the majors. There were simply too many players those days for 16 major league teams.” After his playing days were over, Shaney became the groundskeeper at Asheville’s historic McCormick Field for many years. In the 1950s, he made an annual appearance in a Tri-State League game. In 1954, at the age of 54, he was still good enough to pitch five innings of four-hit shutout ball for a victory. During his pro career, Shaney won 230 games.
Jim Lyle (21-6) was a member of another of the top 100 teams, going 23-13 for the 1924 Okmulgee Drillers. He pitched three innings for Washington in 1925 and had a 212-139 record in 15 years of minor league baseball.
In addition, Thurman Wical (16-3) had the best percentage (.842), while Merle Settlemire (18-8) went 0-6, 5.47 for the 1928 Red Sox, and Mike Meola (2-3) went winless in 18 games for the Red Sox and Browns in 1933 and 1936. Also, Settlemire pitched for another of the top 100, the 1944 Hartford Laurels and Meola posted a 20-5 record for the 1934 Los Angeles, another highly ranked team in minor league history.
The Hornets stayed in the Piedmont until 1942, with the exception of 1936 when they were without a team. During that span of time, the club won a sole pennant in 1932 and suffered a half-game miss in 1938. Following World War II, the city entered a team in the Class B Tri-State League (1946-53), highlighted by a top 100 team in 1951. Next followed a lengthy stay in the Southern League (1964-72, 1976-92) where the team won championships in 1969, 1980 and 1984. In 1993, the team moved up to the AAA International League, becoming the Knights and winning the championship in their first season. In 1999, the Knights claimed another flag, before losing the AAA World Series to Vancouver, three games to two.
The 1931 Charlotte Hornets set two league records on their way to a place on the top 100 list. First, the team became the first and only team in Piedmont League history to finish with 100 wins. And secondly, the Hornets did so by winning games at a .730 clip - becoming the only league team to win at such a rate.
|1931 Piedmont League Standings|
|1931 Charlotte Hornets batting statistics|
|Cleve Barrett (Hen.)||OF||50||212||41||57||24||15||5||3||4||.269|
|George Petty (Hen.)||P||44||98||3||18||13||2||1||0||0||.184|
|Kola Sharpe (Asheville)||P||43||79||8||21||11||3||1||0||1||.266|
|Cy Anderson (Hen.)||3B,1B||29||113||10||29||15||5||1||0||6||.257|
|Roscoe Finlator (HP-WS)||OF||27||100||20||23||14||4||0||3||2||.230|
|Larry Westmoreland (Hen.)||C||21||69||8||16||11||1||0||1||0||.232|
|1931 Charlotte Hornets pitching statistics|
|George Petty (Henderson)||13||14||.481||35||222||232||88||81|
|Kola Sharpe (Asheville)||12||10||.545||35||188||189||63||71|