Ballplayer Profiles: Buck Ross
Mrs. Buck Ross - Lee Ravon "Buck" Ross
Born: February 2, 1915 Norwood, NC
Died: November 23, 1978 Charlotte, NC
Buck Ross was one of those rare individuals who was able to hurdle the minor league baseball system, and at the age of twenty-one, go directly to the major league. The Philadelphia organization had discovered him while pitching in the 1935 Carolina Textile League, the highly competitive precursor to the outlaw Carolina League. Despite his lack of physical prowess with a scant 160 lbs. spread over a '6 2" frame, he impressed Connie Mack in spring training and made his major league debut on May 7, 1936.
Unfortunately for Ross, he arrived in Philadelphia just after the fire sale of players such as Jimmie Foxx. Desperate for cash flow, Mack had been forced to sell off his best hitters. The lackluster team that was left simply could not score runs. The Sporting News once said of Ross's situation with the A's: "Buck Ross should be given a plaque for carrying his non-hitting infielders on his back for several innings, then seeing them convert easy into game-losing bobbles." During his five full seasons with Philadelphia, Ross allowed 115 unearned runs, a remarkable total. He did manage to win 34 games, but lost 65 before he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
While he was not used as extensively in his five years at Chicago, Ross did have a few successful seasons, most notably 1943 when he posted an 11-7 record and a 3.19 ERA
This was also the year that Ross flirted with baseball immortality. On May 14, 1943, in Chicago, Ross pitched a controversial one hitter against the New York Yankees-winning the game 3-0. Fans and sportswriters alike thought Ross had pitched a no-hitter when the game ended. When the public address system announced at the end of the game, "For New York, no runs, one hit," you could have heard the White Sox fans booing from the south side of Chicago all the way to the Cubs' Wrigley Field on the north side. The White Sox players raved, but the decision stood.
Buck explained it was this way, "I'll never forget that one. It was one of the few games I set down New York. I shut 'em out, and when the final out was made, everybody in Comiskey Park thought I had a no-hitter but the official scorer. In the early part of the game, Nick Etten hit a bounder to me that I fumbled. It was one of those debatable plays; it could have been called a hit or an error. Etten received credit for a bingle. In spite of the lone hit, that game-that was my biggest diamond thrill."
The Associated Press news account of the game showed why the fans and White Sox players were upset. There were possibly two errors on the play that was called a hit. A passage from the AP report follows:
The 28 year-old right hander from Norwood, NC, pitched to only 28 batters. Only Nick Etten, the reformed Phillie, now handling first base chores for the American League champs, could do a thing with Buck's Sunday shoots. Nick clicked for the only hit off Ross in the second frame, and then became the only other man to reach base by drawing a walk in the eighth. His second inning hit, however was strictly from luck, for it was a bounder that bounced off Ross' pitching hand. At that, Ross recovered the ball and would have had Etten at first if his throw had not pulled Kuhel off the bag. Nick was wiped out immediately after by a double play.
So goes the fickle Dame Fortune.
When World War II ended in 1945, the market for ball players was glutted, greatly devaluing their services and forcing many veteran players to accept minor league contracts. Ross finished his career in Milwaukee and then Toledo. His final season in Toledo in 1948 featured two highlights. On August 1, he pitched a no-hitter against the Minneapolis Millers. In the weeks following, the club had a Buck Ross Day where he was honored by the fans with gifts of hunting and fishing equipment. It was a great way to end his career. In the off-season that year, arm surgery and common sense forced his retirement. Ross was employed at a textile mill near Albemarle where he had worked during the winters of his baseball career.
Ross finished his big league career with a 56 and 95 record. His ERA of 4.94 is not outstanding, but he proved to be more durable than his size suggested. Ross completed 65 games, over a third of the 182 that he started. He was also an outstanding fielder who only committed thirteen errors in his ten year career. For his last four seasons, he had a perfect fielding percentage.