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Bubba Church

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Emory Nicholas Church
(Bubba)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Bubba Church , after serving 30 months in India with the United States Army during World War II, was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1947 season after playing amateur baseball in Birmingham, Alabama. He had a good pitching arm but he could also run and catch the ball and played the outfield as well as pitched. The Phillies assigned the 22-year-old Bubba to the Salina Blue Jays of the class C Western Association, where he played three days in the outfield and pitched the fourth. After going 21-9 at Salina, it was a good bet that Bubba would make his living on the mound, although he did hit .280 in 275 at bats.

In 1949, he pitched in the International League for the Toronto Maple Leafs winning 15 times and losing only 8 with a league-leading 2.35 ERA. Brought up to the Phillies for the magical 1950 season, he started the first game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs on July 25th and shut them out, 7-0 on 88 pitches. Robin Roberts blanked Bob Rush in the nightcap, 1-0. The Phils went into first place that day where they remained for the rest of the year. Bubba came out of the gate sizzling, winning his first four games before he was defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates' Bill Werle.

Near tragedy struck Bubba on September 15th, when a line drive off the bat of the Cincinnati Reds' Ted Kluszewski hit him in the face. The ball was hit so hard it caromed into right field on the fly. "I was going very well at the time," explained Church. "I missed with a fastball on Ted and he hit it back up the middle. I saw the ball all the way. It knocked my glove off and I felt it hit me. I couldn't stop it. I was hospitalized for eight days." The injury kept Church out of the World Series. He finished his rookie year 8-6 with seven of his victories coming in the second half of the season.

Bubba bounced back in 1951 going 15-11 with a 3.53 ERA including a one-hitter among four shutouts. Bubba's no-hitter opportunity came against the Pirates, but Ralph Kiner blooped a 7th-inning pitch over first baseman Dick Sisler and his outstretched glove and Bubba settled for a one-hitter. In 1952 the Phillies organization drove a spike through Bubba's heart when they traded him to the Cincinnati Reds in return for Johnny Wyrostek and Kent Peterson. Bubba lamented, "I didn't know it at the time, but I never got over it, my heart was in Philadelphia."

Church, who attended Louisiana State University in the off-seasons, never again duplicated his earlier success and was gone after spending time with the Chicago Cubs in 1953. He logged a major league record of 36-37 with a 4.10 ERA. Bubba dropped down to the high minors through 1958 and finished out with a seven year minor league record of 68-48 with a 3.45 ERA.

Church was a salesman for a medical and surgical supplies company serving doctor's offices and clinics until his retirement in 1988. He died September 17, 2001, at age 77, in his native Birmingham, AL.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (1951)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1951)

[edit] Sources

Baseball Players of the 1950s

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