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Ralph Sharman

 

Date and Place of Birth: April 11, 1895 Cleveland, OH
Date and Place of Death:    May 24, 1918 Camp Sheridan, Montgomery, AL
Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Outfield
Rank: Coproral
Military Unit: Battery F, 136th Field Artillery US Army
Area Served: United States

Eight months after his major league debut with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics, Ralph Sharman lost his life in a tragic accident at Camp Sheridan, Alabama.

Ralph E. Sharman was born on April 11, 1895 in Cleveland, Ohio. Living in Norwood, Ohio, he played semi-pro baseball for Norwood and the U.S. Printing team in Cincinnati.

Making his professional debut, aged 20, with the Portsmouth Cobblers of the Class D Ohio State League in 1915, the fleet-footed centerfielder had a sensational year. Appearing in 103 games he stole 31 bases, led the league with a .374 batting average and made just two errors for a .991 percentage.

Sharman was drafted by the New York Giants at the end of the season and he quickly dispelled talk of him making his big league debut in 1916. “Better to have another year in the minors and be sure of success in the big show afterwards,” he told the Cincinnati Times-Star, “than to go into the majors too green and score a failure.”

Sharman spent the spring of 1916 with John McGraw’s second string quad and was disappointed when he was sent the Memphis Chicks of the Class A Southern Association, although McGraw told manager Dolly Stark that he (Sharman) was one of the most promising looking youngsters he had seen in a long time.

Sharman batted just .132 in 15 games at Memphis and was unhappy at being sent to the Galveston Pirates of the Class B Texas League. McGraw took up the matter personally with Sharman and advised him to go. "If you can hit in the Texas League," said the Giant leader, "you can hit anywhere. Bat .300 down there and we will bring you back."

His batting got off to a slow start with the Pirates but he impressed all who saw him with his fine fielding and strong, accurate arm. "I never have seen as much curve pitching in my life as I have looked at in the last three days," Sharman told the Galveston Daily News in June. In the preceding days he had just batted against the fearful left hooks of John Smithson and Fred Troutman of Beaumont. "I never looked at half as many curves in the Southern [Association] the whole time I was there," he declared.

As the season progressed, Sharman’s hitting improved and he finished the year with a respectable .277 average over 105 games. In 1917, the 22-year-old had certainly adjusted to the curve ball pitchers of the Texas League. He got off to a flying start with Galveston, hitting over .300 throughout the year and continuing to hit that way when he joined the Fort Worth Panthers after Galveston dropped out of the league. Sharman finished the season with a .341 batting average in 156 games and during one stretch played 47 games in the outfield without an error.

Sharman was called up by the Philadelphia Athletics in September and made his major league debut against the New York Yankees. In 13 games for Connie Mack’s club, Sharman batted .297 and bright future appeared to be ahead of the youngster.

That bright future was never to be seen, however, as military service intervened and Sharman served as a corporal with Battery F of the 136th Field Artillery. On Friday, May 24, 1918, Corporal Ralph Sharman was tragically drowned during a training exercise in the Alabama River, adjacent to Camp Sheridan at Montgomery, Alabama. His body was not recovered until Sunday, May 26, and on May 28 it was placed on a caisson and brought through the streets of Montgomery, followed by members of Battery F. Ralph Sharman’s body was then sent to Cincinnati for internment and rests at the Spring Grove Cemetery.

Sources
Portsmouth Daily Times May 10, 1915
Portsmouth Daily Times Aug 7, 1915
Portsmouth Daily Times Oct 19, 1915
Portsmouth Daily Times Oct 25, 1915
Portsmouth Daily Times April 27, 1916
Galveston Daily News June 11, 1916
Des Moines News June 16, 1917
Portsmouth Daily Times May 29, 1918
Galveston Daily News May 31, 1918

Date Added July 12, 2012

 

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