Alabama Pitts

From BR Bullpen

Edwin Collins Pitts Jr.

  • Bats Right, Throws unknown

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Alabama Pitts played four seasons in the minor leagues after being let out of jail, creating a national controversy.

There is some uncertainty about his true date of birth. It is listed as December 16, 1906 on his headstone, but other sources give 1910 as the date.

After his father and stepfather died, Pitts joined the Navy at age 15. He served three years and was honorably discharged. Living in New York, NY after his discharge, Pitts was broke when a friend suggested they rob a store. The two stole $76.25 and Pitts pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery. He was implicated in five other crimes.

Pitts being released from prison

Sentenced to Sing Sing Prison for 8-16 years, Pitts behaved well in prison and starred in athletics there. Sing Sing Prison at the time was focusing on rehabilitation of prisoners, a novel and oft-criticized concept at the time. Pitts excelled at track, basketball, football and baseball, with football being his top sport. In 1933, Pitts doubled twice and made several fine catches in center field in an exhibition game against the New York Giants.

Joe Cambria, owner of the Albany Senators, advised his GM, Johnny Evers, to sign Pitts when he was released from prison. Evers did so on May 22, 1935. International League president Charles Knapp refused to approve the signing and William Bramham, in charge of minor league baseball, agreed. The National Association executive committee backed up the decision. The decision was appealed to commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. John Costello, who had been the subject of Pitts' crime, wrote on his behalf and many people weighed in on both sides.

On June 17th, Landis ruled that Pitts could play, but not in exhibition games. He appeared in 43 games for Albany, hitting .233/~.276/.257 and fielding .911, the worst of any International League regular outfielder. He had several injuries also, spraining his finger, bruising his shoulder and suffering a blood infection from a spike injury.

The Philadelphia Eagles signed the now-famous Pitts to play football and he caught two passes for 21 yards in three games for the team.

Pitts batted .224/~.316/.301 for the 1936 York White Roses/Trenton Senators. Released in July, he moved to the outlaw Charlotte Hornets of the Carolina League and fared well in that easy circuit.

Moving on to the Winston-Salem Twins in 1937, Alabama batted .278 in 23 games, was released and returned to the Carolina League. Pitts moved to Valdese, NC and worked at a mill there. He batted .268 with 10 HR in 336 AB in the 1938 Carolina League. He married Mary Walker, a local girl, and had a daughter (Patricia Ann) with her in 1939. He was also coaching the Valdese high school baseball team at this time.

In 1940, he played his last season in Organized Baseball, hitting .303 and scoring 48 runs in 64 games for the Hickory Rebels.

Pitts returned to Valdese to work in the mills and play in the local leagues. On June 5, 1941 he played center field for the House of David when they were in the area. After playing for Valdese on June 6th, Pitts and two teammates went to a roadhouse. Alabama became drunk and attempted to cut in on a dance at 3 AM on June 7th. The lady's date, Newland LeFevers, became angry, and got into an argument with Pitts. LeFevers pulled a knife and cut a 4-inch slice into the former minor leaguer, who died two hours later. LeFevers was convicted of murder but only served a few months when evidence of Pitts' drunken behavior was presented to the judge.

Sources: SABR BioProject, Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society

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