#STINGDAILY: The Company You Keep

July 12, 2012

by Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Major League Baseball gets back into action tonight following the All-Star Break.

While Georgia Tech fans can proudly salute Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, the lone Yellow Jackets representative, and Georgia Tech Hall of Fame shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who was outstanding in an analyst role at Monday night’s Home Run Derby, Sting Daily would like to recognize one more Yellow Jacket alum before closing the book on the 2012 All-Star Game. That is the late Jim Hearn, a pitcher who went to the 1952 All-Star Game.

Hearn, who was born on in Atlanta on April 11, 1921, is better known in Georgia Tech circles as a basketball player, as he played the 1941-42 season with the Yellow Jackets.

Although he never took the baseball field for the Yellow Jackets, when it was time to pick a career, he chose the diamond, signing with baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals in 1942.

After spending a couple of years in the minor leagues, then three years in the service during World War II, he made it back up to the Majors, where he would pitch with three teams until retiring in 1959.

Among the highlights of Hearn’s career was his 17-win season in 1951, during which he played a key part in the New York Giants’ second-half comeback, during which they made up 13 games on the Brooklyn Dodgers from August 11th, winning the National League on Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” of Brooklyn pitcher Ralph Branca. Hearn was huge down the stretch, as from Aug. 15 on, he went 7-2, with a 2.21 ERA. He also won the first game of the best-of-three mini-playoff with the Dodgers. Hearn stayed hot in the World Series against the Yankees, out-pitching 21-game-winner Vic Raschi, allowing one run and four hits over 7 2/3 innings (although he walked eight) in the 6-2 win. He also would pitch a scoreless inning in relief in Game Six and finish the Series with a 1.04 ERA, but the Giants would lose in six games.

The following season, Hearn was selected to the All-Star Game in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park, replacing Preacher Roe, who was injured. Unfortunately, Hearn didn’t get into the game, a 3-2 National League victory, as the Classic was shortened to five innings due to rain. The game ranks as the shortest ever in All-Star Game history.

Hearn’s selection to the game, was special, however, as he joined a select group of athletes that played college basketball then made it to the MLB All-Star Game. The list currently stands at 71, but has seen only three players join the list over the last 10 years — outfielder Randy Winn in 2002 and pitchers Chris Young, in 2007, and Matt Thornton, in 2010.

Coincidentally, Roe also is on the list of two-sport stars, as was Hearn’s Giants teammate Monte Irvin, who also did not play in ’52, due to injury.

Hearn didn’t get to pitch in Philadelphia on that rainy July 8 day in 1952, but would get to pitch in the City of Brotherly Love, pitching the final two seasons of his career there.

He’d finish with a 109-89 record (a .550 winning percentage), 63 complete games and a 3.81 ERA in 396 games. He also swung the bat extremely well, blasting nine career home runs, including three in his all-star season of ’52 (he’d set his career high with four three years later).

Following his baseball career, Hearn returned to Atlanta and opened a golf school. The Jim Hearn Golf Center, located on Buford Highway in Chamblee, is still thriving.

Hearn passed away on June 10, 1998 at age 77.

Just to show how what kind of select company Hearn is in, the college basketball-MLB All-Star list features a dozen Baseball Hall of Famers, including Jackie Robinson, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Gibson, Tony Gwynn, Irvin, Robin Roberts and Dave Winfield.

Other players of note include former N.L. Commissioner Bill White, former Brave Joe Adcock, whose 13th-inning homer ended the May 26, 1959 game in which Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings, Branca, Duke’s two-time All-American (and NBA player) Dick Groat, Atlanta Braves 1995 World Series hero David Justice, Kenny Lofton, the man for whom Justice was traded that off-season, former Braves second baseman and current Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson, closer extraordinaire Lee Smith, and Frank Howard, one of the game’s most feared sluggers and a 1958 Draft pick of the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors (NOTE: He might have played on the same front line as Wilt Chamberlain had he chosen basketball over baseball, as the next year the Warriors drafted Chamberlain).

 

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