Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Earl of Doublin'

Major League baseball player Earl Webb was born on Sept. 17, 1898 in White County, Tennessee. In 1931, he broke a major-league record by hitting 67 doubles in 589 at-bats, averaging one every 8.79 trips to the plate. Today, it is one of the longest-lasting records in major league baseball. It earned him the nickname, Earl of Doublin'.

William Earl Webb was born on a farm in Blue Spring Cove community of White County, less than 10 miles from Sparta. His father worked in the coal mines and when Earl was 6, the family moved to the Ravenscroft community, another seven miles or so from Sparta. Earl’s father not only mined but served as assistant deputy sheriff. He also pitched and played the outfield for the Ravenscroft baseball team and taught singing in the local school. Earl’s mother was the former Helen Victoria Palmer. She is listed in the 1920 Census as “matron” in a hotel. (she ran the coal company’s boardinghouse.) Before baseball, Earl was a coal miner. He claimed to have begun working in the mines at the age of 11, for 5 cents an hour.

Webb married Blanche Matthews of Fentress County, Tennessee at the end of 1920. (They had five children.) His father took him aside, suggesting that coal mining was a rough life and he should pursue the possibilities of playing baseball professionally.

Earl played right field. He was a left-handed batted who threw with his right hand. His Major League debut was on August 13, 1925 for the New York Giants. His last appearance was on October 1, 1933 with the Chicago White Sox. Webb played on five MLB teams between 1925 and 1933: New York Giants (1925), Chicago Cubs (1927-1928), Boston Red Sox (1930–1932), Detroit Tigers (1932–1933) and Chicago White Sox (1933).

His career batting average was .306 with 56 home runs. Webb finished second in the league in extra base hits in 1931 with 84. His .333 batting average that year was seventh-highest in the American League. He finished sixth in the 1931 American League Most Valuable Player voting.

After baseball, Webb returned to the coal mines, taking a position with the Consolidated Coal Company of Jenkins, Kentucky, both working as a foreman in the mines and managing the company baseball team. He managed teams in Kentucky and West Virginia into his 50's. Earl Webb died of coronary thrombosis on the night of May 23, 1965. He and Blanche are buried at Taylor Place Cemetery in Fentress,County, Tennessee.

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