Reader John Coulson was glad to see this painting of St. Louis Cardinal Austin McHenry. McHenry had a very short, if memorable, career that was cut short by a tragic brain tumor.
To back up a bit, Austin McHenry was a son of Ohio, born in September of 1895. His talent was evident as a youngster and he began playing professionally for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association in 1916. The following spring he was invited to training with St. Louis but a ball off the bat of Sherry Magee broke his nose and sent him to the hospital. It took a month before he was ready to play again. Having lost his opportunity to impress, he was sent back to Milwaukee for the rest of the season.
Austin made the Cardinal team the following year and by 1921 had blossomed into one of the biggest stars in all of baseball. That season he appeared in 152 games, batting .350 with 102 runs batted in. It looked as if his future was assured. The following season, however, McHenry began to have double vision and would often feel unsteady on his feet. Fly balls became a challenge and his batting suffered. In June he was sent home to undergo tests. A brain tumor was discovered and operated on but the procedure was not successful. He died in November of 1922.
Since the beginnings of his serious troubles there has been speculation that the hard foul off the bat of Sherry Magee was responsible for the tumor.
Enos “Country” Slaughter, along with Johnny “Pepper” Martin, epitomized the hard-nosed style of play that fans loved and opponents feared. Both players were wildly popular in St. Louis; they are therefore presented in these paintings as Cardinals.
While Martin was twelve years older than Slaughter, they did play together for three seasons. Not only were their styles of play similar, so were their batting averages. Martin retired after thirteen seasons (all with St. Louis) with a .298 average; Slaughter finished nineteen seasons with an even .300 mark.
The Braves, whether they’ve been in Boston, Milwaukee or Atlanta, have usually had great looking uniforms. Today I’ll share with you two new pieces of art that showcase a couple of my favorites.
First off, we have Warren Spahn wearing the familiar “tomahawk” jersey that we all love. This style was introduced for the 1946 season, perhaps in recognition that with WWII now over, it was high time for a bit of enthusiasm and a fresh start. The sad fact that the team had not finished higher than fifth place (and usually much lower) in the previous 11 seasons would factor into the “fresh start” theory. The new uniform was ambitious in both design and execution, rivaling only the famous St. Louis Cardinal graphics. The simple blue chest script (reading “Boston” or “Braves”) was replaced by the three color, stylized “Braves” and the tomahawk graphic added. The new cap and hose redesigns added drama through color. Only the Indian head logo on the left sleeve was kept for continuity, and even that was reversed. In addition, a shimmering silk uniform version was introduced for the new-fangled night games.
Our second painting shows hurler Art Nehf in the Brave’s home uniform used from mid 1915 through 1920. Nehf pitched for the team, usually quite well, from 1915 through part of the 1919 season. This uniform style has an early, simplified version of the Indian head prominently placed over the left breast. The red and white head, encircled by dark blue, must have been quite difficult to make out at any distance. I’m not familiar with many cards from that era showing this uniform, and none in color. As for Nehf, his career spanned 15 years, over which he accumulated a very satisfactory 184-120 record.