The Obit For Ben Flowers

BC Hall of Famer Bennett Flowers dies at 81, February 20, 2009

Atlantic Christian/Barton College Athletic Hall of Famer Bennett Flowers died on Wednesday, Feb. 18 at the age of 81.

Flowers, who was born June 15, 1927 in Wilson, was a Major League Baseball pitchers who played for four different teams between 1951 and 1956.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Collette Bartholomew Flowers. He is survived by one daughter, Rhonda Schoolfield and husband, Jim, of Wilmington; one son, John Flowers and partner, David Muller, of Washington; and grandson, Bryan Talbott, of Charlotte.

Mr. Flowers was a professional baseball player with the Boston Red Sox in the '50s and enjoyed telling stories of the good old days. The 1953 Atlantic Christian graduate was elected to his alma mater's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987. He was a member of the First Christian Church in Wilson.

Listed at 6' 4?, 195 pounds, he bat and threw. A knuckleball specialist, Flowers did almost everything a pitcher is asked to do. He started and filled various relief roles coming out from the bullpen as a closer, middle reliever and set-up man. He started his career in the majors with the Boston Red Sox, playing for them two years (1951, 1953) before joining the Detroit Tigers (1955), St. Louis Cardinals (1955-1956) and Philadelphi Phillies (1956). His most productive season came for the 1953 Red Sox, when he posted career-bests in ERA (3.86), strikeouts (36), and innings pitched(87?) in 32 games, including six starts and one shutout — while recording all three of his career saves.

In a four-season career, Flowers posted a 3-7 record with a 4.49 ERA and three saves in 76 games, including 13 starts, one shutout, 31 games finished and 168? innings of work.

Visitation will be Friday from 6-8 p.m. at Thomas-Yelverton Funeral Home, Feb. 20, 2009. A graveside service will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009, at Maplewood Cemetery, Wilson, with the Rev. Joshua Goocey officiating. Flowers are accepted or memorials may be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 1332 N. Halstead St. Suite 201, Chicago, IL 60642

Arrangements are entrusted to Thomas-Yelverton at Evergreen Memorial Park, 2704 Nash St. N., Wilson, NC 27896.

Low-profile way of life for Flowers

By Tom Ham, The Wilson Daily

Saturday, March 14, 2009, 3:00 AM

When celebrities with major league baseball backgrounds were recognized at the Wilson Hot Stove League banquet in January, Wilson's Ben Flowers was inadvertently overlooked.

Flowers was later introduced, but the oversight didn't bother "Gentle Ben." Such circumstances blend with his persona, his easy-going demeanor.

Despite his imposing physical presence, Flowers, who recently died at age 81, will be remembered as a mild-mannered, quiet-spoken individual comfortable with a low-profile lifestyle.

Low-profile lifestyle?

Until the emergence of Freddie Bynum some four years ago, Flowers was Wilson's link with major league baseball.

He played from 1951 until 1956, with stints in both the American and National Leagues.

Flowers debuted with Boston in 1951 and was with the Red Sox until 1953. The big right-hander pitched for the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals in 1955 and for the Philadelphia Phillies and Cardinals in 1956.

He pitched in 70-plus games, drawing 13 starts, compiling a 3-7 record and 4.49 earned run average. Flowers recorded three saves and his only complete-game performance was also his only shutout.

Flowers left his mark, once owning a record for pitching in nine consecutive games. In a doubleheader, he reportedly finished the first game in relief and started the second.

After baseball, Flowers turned to golf and, later in life, could be often found at Happy Valley Country Club.

He could reportedly offer intriguing stories about his major league experiences -- if those in his midst could persuade or coax him to spin them.

Cohort Ron Poythress speaks of sitting around at Happy Valley on Saturday and Sunday mornings and "getting him started."

Poythress noted Flowers talked about baseball and salaries, and pitching in South American countries to "just make a living."

Flowers, said Poythress, remembered being awed in appearing in Yankee Stadium for the first time.

However, he soon awed the Yankees -- striking out Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto in the same inning.

If baseball's annals document that Flowers mastered the change-up, it would be an obvious fit.

Flowers' huge right hand swallowed a baseball. The concept is that the change-up is most effective when the baseball is situated deep in the palm of the hand. In Flowers' pitching hand, the usual definition of "deep in the palm" doesn't apply.

The Wilson product was a teammate of such greets as pitchers Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons. However, Flowers cherished his relationship with the late and great Ted Williams, the Red Sox's hall-of-fame outfielder who is acclaimed as arguably the greatest hitter of all time.

It was Flowers' argument that Williams received an unfair rap from the media.

Flowers' start in baseball is legendary.

Back in the early 1940s, the Charles L. Coon High School baseball team was involved in a practice game.

A fly ball to right field appeared deep enough to easily score the runner from third baseman. However, the right fielder's strong, accurate and on-the-line throw nailed the astonished baserunner by several feet.

That right fielder was freshman Ben Flowers.

"I was pitching when that happened," recalled Florida resident Jay Clark, Flowers' long-time friend. "The next day, I was at shortstop and Ben was pitching."

Flowers pitched about every game for late and legendary head coach Leon Brogden during his three-year Charles L. Coon career and, said Clark, won every conference game he pitched. The 1944 team won a state championship.

Upon graduating from high school, Flowers signed a professional contract.

Clark points out he became acquainted with Flowers when both were seventh-graders at different schools. They bonded through their admiration for Brogden and their desire to play high school baseball for him.

"We were as close as brothers," remarked Clark, who delivered the eulogy at final services for Flowers and his wife, Collette.

Clark's yearly visits marked the last few years for Flowers, who always spoke of his wife nearly a decade after her death.

And Flowers never shook the one sore subject -- the players' pension -- of his professional baseball career.

He would scoff about the unfairness of the extravagant pensions available to major leaguers of recent and current eras, while the players of his time received little or nothing.

In his last few years, Flowers managed more appearances at hot stove fetes and functions saluting old-timers.

The gentlemanly giant was always an impact and will be so missed. His memory won't be an oversight at the next Wilson Hot Stove banquet. Sincerest sympathy is extended to his family, loved ones, friends, golfing cronies and admirers.

But as Clark eulogized, the time came for Ben Flowers to join his wife in the hereafter -- and finally receive his pension.