The Obit For Enos Slaughter

The New York Post, August 12th, 2002

Hall of Famer, 86, dies at Duke


By Al Featherston : The Herald-Sun

Aug 12, 2002 : 8:28 pm ET

DURHAM -- Hall of Fame outfielder Enos "Country" Slaughter died early Monday morning at Duke University Medical Center.

Mr. Slaughter, 86, died at 12:44 a.m. of complications from emergency colon surgery, which he underwent July 25. The surgery was followed by another procedure July 29 to repair perforated ulcers. Mr. Slaughter also was being treated for a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

"We felt Dad was comfortable and was not in any pain," said his daughter Gaye Currier, who is a nurse at Duke. "All of his daughters and sons-in-law were with him. and when he passed we were singing, ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’

"I had told him, ‘Daddy, you’re rounding third and it’s time to go home now.’ "

Funeral services will be Thursday at Allensville United Methodist Church in Roxboro, followed by burial in the church cemetery. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Brooks and White Funeral Home.

Mr. Slaughter, who was born in Roxboro and coached baseball at Duke from 1971-77, had a .300 lifetime batting average in 19 major-league seasons. He was a 10-time all-star with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played from 1938 to 1953. He played on five pennant winners and four World Championship teams.

"He was a hell of a player -- almost as good as he thought he was," veteran St. Louis sports writer Bob Broeg said late last week. "Eddie Stanky always said that Enos had one of the sweetest swings ever, and he could really, really run."

Mr. Slaughter’s death is the latest blow to the Cardinals, an organization that already lost pitcher Darryl Kile, former catcher Darrell Porter and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck this summer.

"The Cardinals are very saddened by Enos’ passing," team chairman Frederick Hanser said. "He was a great ballplayer, a great friend to the organization and one of the most popular players to ever wear the Cardinals’ uniform. Enos was a treasure and he’ll be sorely missed."

Mr. Slaughter was given his nickname "Country" because of his rural North Carolina roots. He was born in 1916 on a farm just outside Roxboro, and he learned to play baseball on a neighboring farm.

"We played over on Ray Moore’s farm," Mr. Slaughter said in an interview last year. "When we cut the wheat, we’d lay out a field and we’d play baseball. We took beeswax and thread and sewed our own baseball. Later, we took tape and wrapped it. My dad made me a bat out of a mulberry tree."

Cardinals’ scout Billy Southworth -- who later would manage Mr. Slaughter in St. Louis -- spotted the young outfielder and his buddy Morris Briggs at a tryout camp in Greensboro in 1935. He signed both teen-agers for $75 a month. St. Louis general manager Branch Rickey assigned the two young players to a Class D farm team in Martinsville, Va.

Mr. Briggs got homesick and returned to Roxboro, but Mr. Slaughter stuck it out and hit .275 with 18 homers that season. He was promoted through the St. Louis minor-league system -- known in those days as "Branch Rickey’s chain gang" -- until he joined the Cardinals in 1938.

He became the team’s regular right fielder in 1939, and -- except for the three seasons he spent in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II -- he held that job until he was traded to the Yankees before the 1954 season. He played six more seasons in the American League, mostly as a reserve outfielder and a pinch-hitter with the Yankees until his retirement in 1959.

Mr. Slaughter was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1985.

He was famous for running all the time on the baseball field -- running to and from his position, running out walks and, most famously of all, running all the way from first base to score the winning run in the seventh game of the 1946 World Series.

"He was one of the great hustlers of baseball," former teammate Stan Musial, also a Hall of Famer, told ESPN. "He loved baseball. He always ran hard and played hard."

Mr. Slaughter’s hustle and his key role in St. Louis’ World Series victories in 1942 and 1946 made him one of the most popular players on the Cardinals.

Mr. Broeg said Mr. Slaughter was one of the reporters’ favorites, too.

"He was a character with a capital ‘C’ ," he said. "I could write a book about him."

Mr. Broeg would devote much of the book to refuting allegations that Mr. Slaughter was one of the leaders in the racist taunting of Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947. There were allegations that Mr. Slaughter tried to lead the Cardinals in a strike against Mr. Robinson, but Mr. Broeg insists those charges are false.

"It’s a canard that the Cardinals were going to strike," he said. "I was there, and it never happened. I quote [National League president] Ford Frick in my autobiography as saying the Cardinals were more fair to Robinson than any other team. That was because of Dyer, who told his players, ‘If you get Robinson mad, he’ll beat you all by himself.’ "

Mr. Slaughter always denied that he had anything against the Dodger star.

"There’s been a hell of a lot of stuff written on that because I was a Southern boy," he said in a 1994 interview. "It’s just a lot of baloney."

Mr. Slaughter spiked Mr. Robinson during a close play at first base in August 1947. Mr. Robinson later insisted it was intentional.

"It was really a shame," Mr. Broeg said. "Nobody knows if Enos deliberately spiked him or not. That’s just the way Enos played. The previous year, he put Eddie Stanky in the hospital twice."

Mr. Slaughter also spiked Bill Rigney later that season in the Polo Grounds.

"I spiked a lot of guys that I hadn’t intended to because they had their foot blocking the basepaths," Mr. Slaughter wrote in his autobiography. "The color of Robinson’s skin was the farthest thing from my mind while I was trying to beat out a low throw to first base."

Reportedly, Mr. Slaughter’s problems with Mr. Robinson kept him out of the Hall of Fame for years. But Mr. Broeg, who was a member of the Veterans Committee that finally voted him in, pointed out that former Giant outfielder Monte Irvin, another of baseball’s first black stars, was a friend of Mr. Slaughter and was a member of the committee that elected Mr. Slaughter to the Hall of Fame.

"The stigma is unfair," Mr. Broeg said.

Mr. Slaughter returned to Roxboro after retiring from baseball. He was active in support of the Person County Museum of History, the Piedmont Community College and the Duke Children’s Classic.