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Shields Surname Index

Benjamin Cowan Shields, Sr.
Baseball Career "Scrapbook"


My grandfather, Benjamin Cowan Shields, Sr. was born on 17 Jun 1903 in Huntersville, Mecklenburg Co., NC, to Cowan Lemley Shields and Julia Nancy Alexander Shields. 

He played baseball for his high school baseball team in Huntersville and again for his college, Oak Ridge Military Academy, team.  On 31 Aug 1923, when he was 20, he was sent a telegram from Paul Krichell, scout for the New York Yankees, and told to report to "Manager Huggins at the Raleigh Hotel Washington DC on Sunday. Bring gloves shoes undershirts and other necessary articles excepting uniform."  That was the beginning of his professional baseball career.

All of the player statistics I have seen in books and online report that he debuted with the NY Yankees in 1924.  He joined the team in 1923, based not only on the date of the telegram, but he also is in one of the 1923 Yankee team photographs.  I had a copy of the photo from my aunt, Sandy Shields Griffin, but there was no date or name of the team or players.  Then I found a newspaper clipping with the same photo and it identified the players by name.  I checked the names of all of the players listed in the photo with the 1923, 1924 and 1925 team rosters, and all of those names (except my grandfathers and a person identified as Berinett) only appear in the 1923 roster (Hinkey Haines only appears on the 1923 roster, Elmer Smith on the 1922-23 rosters, and Carl Mays was with the Yankees from 1919 to 1923).  Only 3 of the 1923 players listed on the Yankees roster did not appear in the photo:  Ernie Johnson, Lou Gehrig (also joined the Yankees in 1923) and Waite Hoyt.  The newspaper clipping also states that the team " . . . only need to win one more game to clinch the championship."   The Yankees won the World Series in 1923 and I have a newspaper clipping that states he finished the 1923 season with the Yankees and was "voted a fourth share in  the recent world series money".

My grandfather was the 2nd youngest player on the 1923 and 1924 teams -- the youngest being Lou Gehrig, who was 2 days younger than my grandfather.  They had several similarities -- their closeness in age; they both joined the Yankees in 1923 as their first professional baseball team; and they were also similar in size -- my grandfather was 6' 1-1/2" tall and weighed 195 pounds -- Lou Gehrig was 6' tall and weighed 200 pounds.  Lou Gehrig went on to achieve baseball fame.   Unfortunately, illness -- first tuberculosis and later appendicitis -- prevented my grandfather from attaining the pitching career that he had the potential for.     From a 26 Feb 1930 newspaper clipping that I have titled "Shields Shines in Sox Drill" (I don't know the name of the newspaper): 

"Shields Once Best Yankee Prospect"

"Milt Gaston, who is a shrewd observer, says that Shields was one of the best prospects when he was a member of the Yankees of 1924. There were 16 twirlers taken South to try for the berth vacated by Carl Mays . . . Shields, according to Gaston, had the job cinched when he fell sick."

"He appeared in about four games, winning three of them." [SSS Note: this was in 1925] "Even when he was definitely out of it, the Yankees officials carried him along for a season. And the late Miller Huggins always regarded him as an embryo star." (SSS Note:  Miller Huggins was the manager of the Yankees)

That is just one of the articles -- over and over again in the majority of the other clippings that I have, the same positive tone is repeated about his performance on the field.

During his baseball career, my grandfather was called "Big Ben" Shields, and not just because of his physical stature.  According to one clipping that I have, he was called "Big Ben" because "he is alarming the other teams of the Virginia League" (name & date of newspaper unknown; headline "Sports Gleanings.  Big Ben Shields is Alarming Other Teams of League--Weafer has hard luck; by J. V. Dunford).  He was also known as "Lefty" Shields and called "Southpaw" because he was a left-handed pitcher.  (I always thought it a little odd that he pitched left-handed but batted right-handed.)

I don't know if it was his mother, Emily, and/or his grandmother, Annie, who collected the newspaper clippings for my father;  one (or both) of them clipped all that they found in the newspaper.  Many years later when my aunt Sandy was helping me with the family genealogy, she mentioned that she had some clippings from other newspapers & we exchanged copies of what each of us had, which I have scanned for this little baseball "scrapbook" tribute to my grandfather.  I don't believe this is a complete history of his career, as in several of the articles I saw references to him being "farmed out" to other teams, but it is all I have.


I decided to separate the clippings and photos into separate sections of the teams he played for and have tried to determine the dates to put them in chronological order as best as I could.  If I approximated a date or other information, that will be noted in the description.  Some tables may overlap dates, such as in 1925 when he played for both the Yankees and the Colts. 

 

The Early Days
Date Description
probably pre 1921 Team Photograph
probably of Huntersville High School Team (NC)
probably 1923 or before Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Long Creek in 7 to 2 Victory"

 

Oak Ridge Military Institute (College)
Date Description
1923 or before Team Photograph
1923 or before Newspaper clipping, The Wilson Mirror
"College Closes Out Oak Ridge in Close Fight"
1923 or before Group Photograph
probably of Oak Ridge Cadets or Graduates
24 Mar 1923 Newspaper clipping, The Greensboro Daily News
"Oak Ridge Wins First Game . . ."

 

New York Yankees (American League)
Date Description Page
1924-1925 Ben Shields NYY Stats at Baseball Reference.com 1
1924-1925 Ben Shields NYY Stats at Baseball Almanac 1
31 Aug 1923 Telegram from Paul Krichell, NY Yankees Scout
telling Ben Shields to report to "Manager Huggins" on Sunday
1
1923 Team photograph (also see next clipping) 1
1923 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper) showing the same
Team Photograph as the photograph above which also names the
players shown (see 2nd paragraph above regarding my checking the
players names with the 1923 through 1925 NY Yankee rosters)
1
1923 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Ben Comes Home Pockets Bulging With Series Coin"
(This article mentions that he finished the 1923 season with the
NY Yankees.  They won the World Series in 1923.)
1
Apr probably 1924 Newspaper clipping, possibly from The New York Telegram
and Evening Mail

" . . . Huggins Believes Ex-Gob in Best Shape for Boston Game --
Shields a Real Pitching Find . . ."
, by Daniel
2
1924 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Ben Worked"
2
9 Apr 1924 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Yanks Beat Robins While Ruth Sulks"
(Milt Gaston was only with the Yankees in 1924, also see next clipping)
2
Apr 1924 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Shields is Effective" (see clipping above re same game)
2
probably 1924 Partial Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
Mentions that he was with the Colts (which he was in the beginning
of 1924) and that this was his 2nd "big league game today".

(He pitched in 2 games for the Yankees in 1924 and 4 in 1925.)
3
25 Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Yanks Defeat White Sox, 6-5, in Overtime Game", by W. B. Hanna
3
probably Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
(can't read small title), mentions that he recently married and is on
his honeymoon in New York
3
Sep [23 or 28] 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Yanks Divide Double Bill With Cobbs", by Associated Press
3
24 Jan 1926 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
(no title) Part of an article describing the 1926 NY Yankees Players
4
1926 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Shields Said Doing Well With Yankees in Florida"
4
1926 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Conflicting Reports on Shields' Health Drift Back From Florida"
4
1926 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Lefty Shields Leaving Today for Long Rest"
4
1926 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Ben Shields Sent Home by Yankees
Big Hurler in Richmond for Rest After Illness--May Report Later"
4

 

Richmond Colts (Minor League)
Date Description Page
[don't know] Richmond Colts Team Photograph 1
[don't know] Richmond Colts Team Photograph 1
probably 1924 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Sports Gleanings.  Big Ben Shields is Alarming Other Teams
of League--Weafer has hard luck"
; by J. V. Dunford
2
around 16 Mar 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Vanguard of Colt Batterymen Start Work on Mayo Isle Lot"
2
20 May 1925 Newspaper clipping from the Virginian Pilot
"Shields Turns Back Truckers, Colts Winning Score 4 to 1"
2
27 May probably 1925 Newspaper clippings (no name of newspaper)
"Colts Take Deciding Game", by J. V. Dunford
(also see next clipping re same game)
3
around 27 May probably 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Shields Holds Truckers to 5 Bingles to Win", by J. V. Dunford
(also see previous clipping)
3
probably May 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Truckers Fail to Shake Jinx of Shields in Opening Game"
4
probably May or June 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Shields Great . . . [part missing] Three Homers Give Red
Proctor Pain",
by Robert Harper
4
2 Jun 1925 Newspaper clippings (no name of newspaper)
"Richmond Chalks Up 11 Hits As Shields Wins 8th Contest"
4
probably June 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
Subtitle of article:  "Shields Great Pitching"
(Continuation of an article, but I don't know which is and might
not even have the first part of the article)
4
28 Jul 1925 Newspaper clipping, Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Lefty Shiel[ds next word missing] Out Wilson, 3 to 0"
(see clipping below for related article)
5
around 28 Jul 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
". . . Out of the Press Box . . .", by James P. Selvage
(see clipping above for related article)
5
after 31 Aug 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Baseball Minutegraphs", by Ed Brill
5
probably Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Begin Series Monday in Spartanburg, S.C."
5
11 Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Shields, Colts Star, Will Wed Richmond Girl Here Tomorrow"
5
13 Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping, Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Members of Colt Battery Brigade"
6
13 Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Shields to Face Sparts"
6
14 Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Carter Poles Three Homers but Spartans Win in Tenth"
6
14 Sep 1925 Newspaper clipping, probably the Charlotte Observer
"Spartan-Colt Features"
6
[don't know] Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Colts of 1925 -- Gone, But Not Forgotten"
7
[don't know] Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Hard-Hitting Colts of 1925 Boasted Seven Regulars Who Hit
.300 or Better"
, by Tom Wiley
7
late 1931 or early 1932 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Once Southpaw King Tries Comeback"
8
late 1931 or early 1932 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Ace Returns"
8
29 Mar 1932 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Big Ben is Ready for His Fat Years", by Charles M. Hamilton
8
21 Apr 1932 Newspaper clipping, The Richmond News Leader
" . . . Here are Members of Colt Hurling Brigade"
8
9 Jul 1932 Newspaper clipping, Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Danning's Homer in Eighth Beat . . . [part missing] Colts
Overcome Early Tar Lead to Win, 7 to 6"
, by David Lidman
9
2 Feb 1982 Newspaper clipping, The Richmond News Leader
"Tom Ferrick, Ex-Richmond Colt draws on memories, Where are
they now?"
, by Mike Hyland
9

 

Boston Red Sox (American League)
Date Description Page
1930 Ben Shields BOS Stats at Baseball Reference.com 1
1930 Ben Shields BOS Stats at Baseball Almanac 1
1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Fanning and Panning"
Article begins with: "Ben Shields is staging a great comeback fight
as a rookie with the Boston Red Sox . . ."
1
26 Feb 1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Shields Shines in Sox Drill"
1
26 Feb 1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"22 Hurlers Out at Red Sox Camp, Ben Shields, Southpaw with
Yanks in 1926, Makes Good Impression Among New Flingers"

by Jack Malaney
1
27 Feb 1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Red Sox Will Give Ben Shields Tryout, Local Portsider Reports
to Club"
, by the Associated Press
1
11 Mar 1930 Newspaper clipping, The Boston Herald
"Shields is Set for Sox Berth, Former Yankee Southpaw Shows
Plenty of Stuff at Pensacola"
2
12 Mar 1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Ben Shields Fitted for Red Sox Suit, Southpaw to Stay on
Boston Roster"
, by Associated Press
2
probably Mar 1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Makes Comeback"
Article begins with: "Ben Shields, out of the major league picture
for several seasons because of his health, is making a comeback
with the Red Sox . . ."
2
probably after Mar 1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Good Pitcher Club"
2
18 May 1930 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Yankees Blank Boston Red Sox By Eleven Runs"
2

 

Philadelphia Phillies (National League)
Date Description
1931 Ben Shields PHI Stats at Baseball Reference.com
1931 Ben Shields PHI Stats at Baseball Almanac
13 Feb 1931 Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Ben Shields Will Hurl for Phillies"
1 Apr 1931 Newspaper clipping, Richmond News Leader
"Ben Shields Does Well With Phils", by Associated Press
probably between
Apr - Jun 1931
Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Give Ben a Hand"
probably between
Apr - Jun 1931
Newspaper clipping (no name of newspaper)
"Reds Jolt Phils With Three Defeats", by James C. Isaminger
This article states ". . . Ben Shields suddenly contracted appendicitis
in Cincinnati and was operated on. . . ."
25 Jun 1931 "Notice to Player of Release or Transfer"
The Phillies gave him "10 Days notice of release"

 

Other
Date Description
12 Sep 1925 Marriage Certificate for Benjamin Cowan Shields, Sr. and Emily Stoddard Butler
17 Dec 1928 Newspaper clipping, Richmond Times-Dispatch
". . . Ben Shields, Star Pitcher, Fights to Regain Health", by Robert Harper
21 Jul 1932 Duplicate of the Telegram from Ben Shields to J. F. Bunch of the Omaha,
Nebraska Baseball Club

Stating he would join the club if they would guarantee expenses up and back
24 Jan 1982 Death Certificate for Benjamin Cowan Shields, Sr.
1982 Transcriptions & Images of 2 Death Notices:
Newspaper clipping from The Charlotte Observer; "Benjamin Shields, 78, Ex-New York Yankee", by Carla Van Cleave &
Magazine clipping from the Yankee Alumni Magazine (I don't know the name of the magazine); "Shields passes at 79; Dawson, DeWitt die"

 


On a more personal note . . .

On 12 Sep 1925, my grandfather married my grandmother, Emily Stoddard Butler in Richmond, VA.  They spent their honeymoon in New York.  They had one son, Benjamin Cowan Shields, Jr. (my father). 

Unfortunately I never met my grandmother.  She died when I was 3 -- she was living in Maryland with her second husband, Paul Wilson; and we lived in Florida (my father was in the Air Force stationed at Homestead Air Force Base near Miami).  I remember that my father took my brother (2 years older than me) and they went to her funeral.

I'm not sure when my grandparents divorced, but I assume it was before 1931 as my grandmother had her first child by her second husband that year (they had a total of 7 children and she raised one of her nieces). 

My grandfather married again on 25 May 1940 in South Carolina to Margaret Isabelle Parsons.  By his second wife, my grandfather had 2 more children, Robert Jerry Shields (4 Dec 1942 - 18 Feb 1972) and my aunt Sandy.

For whatever reasons, my father was raised by his maternal grandparents, Ira Hardy Butler and Annie Michaels Southall Butler.  I'm not sure if or how often he saw his parents as he either doesn't remember or doesn't want to talk about it (he's never been much of a "talker" -- I must have inherited that trait from my mother).

The first time I remember meeting my grandfather was either in late 1971 or early 1972 when we went to visit my uncle Jerry (my grandfather's son by his second wife) at a hospital in Charlotte, NC.   He had terminal cancer and my father took us to see him and while we were there, we stayed with my grandfather and step-grandmother.  Margaret died on 1 Mar 1974, just 2 years after her son.  I was 12 at the time and don't recall if we went to her funeral (but that isn't unusual for me since they are such unpleasant experiences, I have a tendency to block them out of my mind).  

I'm not sure when, but during one of our trips to Huntersville, Mecklenburg Co., NC, I also met my aunt Sandy and her family; and Jerry's wife Jeanell and her children.   I was happy to have finally met that side of my family and they all were so very nice to us.  Not long after Margaret's death, my grandfather came to visit us in Virginia.

Around 6 weeks after my 2nd marriage, on 24 Jan 1982, I got the phone call that my grandfather had died.  I was upset not only because he had died, but also because I had wanted to get to know him better.  My new husband (now ex-husband) and I had discussed visiting him when we could take a vacation, but he died before we got the chance.  We went to the funeral, but again, I don't remember anything other than going there.

I am thankful that I did get to see him several times, and meet the rest of his family.  I don't remember the exact date, but sometime in late 80's, my aunt Sandy invited us to the Shields family reunion.  I was overwhelmed with meeting so many relatives and had a wonderful time.  By then, I was researching my family tree and hounded everyone there for names/dates/places - a dream come true!  It was after the reunion that I went to Hopewell Presbyterian Church and Gilead A.R.P. church cemeteries in Mecklenburg taking pictures and inscriptions of headstones of the Shields, Alexander, and any possibly related families.


Special thanks to my aunt Sandy Shields Griffin and to my father, Benjamin Cowan Shields, Jr. for giving me copies of the newspaper clippings, photos, and other information about my grandfather.

Online reference sources that I used for some of the baseball information:

Baseball-Reference.com

Baseball Almanac

Historic Baseball

Retrosheet Official Web Page


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Page Updated on: 1 Dec 2005
Page Visitors: c. Susan Shields Sasek