Grave Story: Marshall Mauldin (1914-1990)

Here lies Marshall Mauldin, who appeared briefly as a third baseman for the White Sox. His major-league career was over before his 20th birthday, but he had a long and successful career in the minor leagues. Mauldin played for the Chicago White Sox in 1934. Also, you’ll find him listed on the baseball stat sites as Mark Mauldin, but I never saw a single reference to him as “Mark” anywhere in his career.

Marshall Mauldin was born in Atlanta on November 5, 1914. In 1932 the Atlanta Constitution reported that a Marshall Mauldin was one of 13 players on the Maddox Junior High football team to be awarded letters. He was also the captain of the baseball and basketball teams there. Mauldin became a standout baseball player in Atlanta’s sandlots, as the star shortstop of the Alpha Class of Wesley Memorial Church in the city Sunday school league. In 1933, Mauldin was signed to the Chattanooga Lookouts by manager Bert Niehoff. Mauldin impressed the Lookouts’ boss with his strong throwing arm and his ability to hit the ball hard, though he was a 155-pound 17-year-old. He also showed something else – a couple of still-healing bite marks on his leg, which were souvenirs left from Mauldin’s brief career as a semi-professional wrestler in the Atlanta area. His older brother did wrestle under the name of Gentleman John Mauldin, while another brother, Carl, was an Atlanta policeman. Marshall Mauldin also patrolled the streets as a cop in the offseason.

Mauldin attended the Lookouts’ training camp in the spring of 1933 in Selma, Ala. He was the youngest player there, and while he didn’t make the team, Niehoff kept the youngster’s contract, loaning him out to a Selma team to get additional experience. His age led to a similar situation in 1934. Mauldin had a trial with the New Orleans Pelicans but was deemed too young for Class-A. Instead, he ended up joining the Lafayette White Sox of the Class-D Evangeline League.

Though he was 19 years old, Mauldin handled himself admirably in Lafayette. In 88 games, he batted .318 and played a steady if unspectacular third base. Yankees scout Johnny Nee said of Mauldin, “He had the greatest pair of ham hands I have seen on a kid in years, and he can smother anything hit his way.” He tried to get the Yankees to go after the infielder, but the Chicago White Sox had an option on his contract and brought him to the majors in August, as injuries wracked the team’s infield. Lafayette was sorry to see the kid go, and the management took the rare step of apologizing in print to its fans for the transaction.

“The management of the Lafayette White Sox realizes that there will likely be some criticism over letting Mauldin leave at this time, with the local club leading the fight for the Evangeline League pennant. On the other hand, it was felt unfair to Mauldin not to allow him this opportunity for such a baseball promotion. Fans know the dream of every baseball player is to be in the majors, and when a player get the chance Mauldin is offered at this time it is hard to keep him from realizing such an ambition,” the team announced in a statement. Lafayette’s players were even given a chance to weigh in on the move, and they agreed to a man that Mauldin should get his shot at the big leagues.

Mauldin as a member of the Knoxville Smokies. Source: The Knoxville Journal, January 8, 1942.

When Mauldin made it to the majors, he was the second-youngest player in the American League – Washington Senators pitcher Reese Diggs debuted days before his 19th birthday. Mauldin’s first game was on September 10, 1934, and he doubled in 4 at-bats off the Senators’ Jack Russell and handled a putout and an assist at third base. On September 22, Mauldin went 3-for-5 with a double and home run against Cleveland. Unfortunately, the Sox lost the game when reliever George Earnshaw was pounded for 5 runs.

Over the final month of the season, Mauldin started 10 games at third base and slashed .263/.263/.395. He had 10 hits in 38 at-bats, including 2 doubles and 1 home run. He drove in 3 runs and scored 3 times. His fielding at third base was a little shaky – a .906 fielding percentage – but overall it was a successful September call-up. It was also the end of his major-league career.

What happened to Mauldin? He just couldn’t find a position. He started as a shortstop, but he was obviously not going to displace Luke Appling at that position. Mauldin had also adapted to third base. Unfortunately for him, the Sox third baseman, Jimmy Dykes, was also the team’s manager, and he wasn’t ready to take himself out of the lineup just yet, even though he liked the rookie. Dykes tried to put Mauldin in the outfield, but even then, he was competing with the likes of Al Simmons and Mule Haas.

Ironically, Mauldin and Appling were neighbors in Atlanta, played on the same Atlanta sandlots and were discovered by the same scouts, Roy and Bessie Largent. But there wasn’t enough room on the big-league roster for the both of them.

Mauldin recalled a story about the time Dykes loaded the starting lineup of an exhibition game with Southerners, including Mauldin, Appling, Zeke Bonura, Ted Lyons, Jackie Hayes and Luke Sewell. Every one of them made an error or did something bad in the game early on. “Dykes said, ‘I’m going to put some Yankees in for you guys and try to win this thing,’ and danged if he didn’t take every one of us out at one time, including Lyons, the pitcher.”

Mauldin, unable to crack the White Sox roster in 1935, ended up with the Longview Cannibals of the West Dixie League. He batted .337 for them, and then he hit .378 with 218 hits and 7 home runs in 1936 for the Knoxville Smokies as a center fielder. After the season, thanks to some sort of White Sox oversight, he was declared a free agent by Commissioner Kenesaw Landis. Mauldin approached Atlanta Constitution columnist Thad Holt for help in getting a job in the major leagues. Holt contacted Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who took an interest in Mauldin. The Red Sox were one of a dozen teams, across all professional levels, who were after him. In the end, Atlanta Crackers president Earl Mann came in with a bid that beat even Boston’s best offer, and Mauldin signed with his hometown team.

Mauldin, right, signs a contract with the Atlanta Crackers as team president Earl Man, left, and witness Alpha Brewer, center, look on. Source: Atlanta Constitution, October 13, 1936.

“I feel that I ought to have a good year with Atlanta,” he said. “I like Atlanta and the baseball team and the management, and that decided me in signing with Atlanta. I think I will be happy here and I know I will play the best baseball in me for this team.”

The idea was that Mauldin would get one year with the Crackers and then jump to the major leagues. He actually spent a total of eight seasons in the Southern Association, moving between the Crackers, the Smokies and the Memphis Chicks. He didn’t match the high numbers he put up in his first few years, but he was a consistent hitter for the Crackers and played all over the field. He hit .277 for Atlanta in 1938, but he had 30 doubles, 10 triples and 10 homers among his 172 hits. He also gained a reputation as the only baserunner in the Southern Association who would slide head-first into bases.

The Crackers traded him to Knoxville in the middle of 1940, and he spent a few seasons moving between Southern Association teams. Mauldin didn’t like all the movement, though. He announced his retirement from baseball in January of 1942, after he was traded to Memphis. He accepted a job in the fingerprint office of the Atlanta Police Department. Come the start of the season however, he was playing ball for Memphis – but he was traded to Atlanta before the season was over. Along the way, he recovered his .300+ hitting stroke and by the time he returned to Atlanta in 1943, he batted .333. He was frequently a Southern Association All-Star.

In 1944, Mauldin hit .324 and slugged .414 in was basically his last season of professional baseball. He was the toughest Southern Association player to strike out, with 7 Ks in 389 at-bats. In a doubleheader against Memphis on July 4, Mauldin went 6-for-6 in the second game. Add the hit he picked in his last at-bat of the first game, he ended up with 7 straight hits on the day and had 11 hits in a row before he made an out.

After the season, Mauldin was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. Instead of heading to Canada to play ball, he took a job as an athletic director for Fulton County. The ballplayer/patrolman was assigned to a safety education division of the police department with the task of organizing sports teams and boys’ patrol clubs. Within a year, he had organized dozens of sandlot teams, along with opportunities for children to play volleyball, ping-pong, basketball, skating, softball, golf and many other social activities. He opened playgrounds for white and black children. (This being Atlanta in 1946, playgrounds were segregated).

Mauldin was one of the only players in the Southern Association who preferred a head-first slide. Source: The Atlanta Constitution, April 10, 1938.

Mauldin made a brief comeback in 1956, signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The comeback lasted just two games, in which he had 4 hits and scored 3 runs in 9 at-bats. He was released by the Leafs at the end of May. “Either my eyes got weaker or the pitchers got better,” he said years later. “They put glasses on me and I hung it up.”

Mauldin’s minor-league career is missing some numbers, but of the statistics that are available, he had 1,466 hits in 12 seasons for a .316 career batting average.

After he retired from baseball for good, Mauldin got back into the Fulton County Parks and Recreation Department as an assistant superintendent. He worked on and off there until his retirement in 1984. He also became a pretty good amateur golfer, organizing and participating in many tournaments in and around the city. His pre-Masters exhibitions at North Fulton golf courses attracted the likes of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. He was also active in prison inmates’ rehabilitation and recreation.

Mauldin worked briefly for Baltimore in the late 1950s as a scout. The Orioles skipper, Paul Richards, managed the Atlanta Crackers at the start of his very long managing career. “It’s fine that Paul Richards has given me this job scouting, but after all I gave him a lot of my good years as centerfielder of the Atlanta Crackers,” Mauldin cracked.

Marshall Mauldin died on September 2, 1990, from colon cancer at the Southwest Christian Hospice in Union City, Ga. He was 75 years old. He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in College Park, Ga.

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2 thoughts on “Grave Story: Marshall Mauldin (1914-1990)

  1. Thanks for writing this! Apparently Luke Appling was the best man at his wedding in October 1935, according to a couple of newspaper blurbs from the following spring, though I can’t find an actual wedding notice to confirm this. (Also, like you, I have not seen any reference to him as “Mark”; the contemporary papers all call him “Marshall”.)


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