Ballplayer Profiles: Glenn Allen "Razz" Miller
Born: November 7, 1909: Rockwell, NC
Died: May 13, 1981: Rockwell, NC
"The name "Razz" came out of a high school play at the Rockwell High School where he played ball and graduated. He played a character in some high school play called Rastus and the students started shortening it to Razz and somehow the name stuck. His real name was Glenn. Of course, all the ball players called him "Preacher."
"Razz" Miller was a country boy. Throughout his life, he reflected the character of one who experienced hard work on a farm, strong family love and immediately after college graduation, the financial devastation of the Great Depression. He was a gifted athlete and an ardent lover of his hunting dogs.
Soon after graduating from Rockwell HS (NC) in 1926, he was plowing a muddy field on his family´s farm, barefooted, when he was approached by a coach from Lenoir-Rhyne College, a private Lutheran school in Hickory, NC. The coach had been directed to the field by Razz´s father, Cal Miller. Because of the muddy condition of the field, Razz insisted that the stranger stay at the edge of the field. From there the coach introduced himself and asked Razz if he was interested in going to college and playing ball. Razz replied that his father was very interested in his going to college and that he liked to play ball.
So, in the fall of 1926, this Rowan County country boy entered Lenoir-Rhyne College. At L-R, he displayed tremendous athletic ability, becoming a three-sport letterman - football, basketball, and baseball. Miller once sustained a broken leg while playing football, and this injury influenced his approach to baseball. Razz was fast on his feet, with a proven ability to steal bases (His 14 SB tied Broadus Culler for the league lead in 1937.), yet he refused to slide and take a chance on reinjuring the leg. Buck Glover, a teammate and first baseman for the 1942 Concord Weavers of the Class D NC State League, said Razz was the only player that he knew of that had a clause in his contract that said he did not have to slide, yet he stole more than his share of bases.
Razz Miller´s college years can best be described by the caption printed under his photograph in the school´s annual: "To study little, to worry less is my idea of happiness."
While at Lenoir-Rhyne, Miller played on winning baseball teams all four years for coach Dick Gurley. Those seasons included two victories over North Carolina State and one over Wake Forest. His best season as a Mountain Bear was 1930 when the team went 12-4. Razz shared the diamond with other outstanding players like Shine Rumple, Jack Kiser, Cloyd Hager, and one of the school´s finest ever, Lloyd Little.
After getting his BA in the spring of 1930, Miller started teaching at the local Landis, NC, high school and playing baseball with various semi-pro teams. The Great Depression had helped eliminate semi-pro teams in the textile towns, but nearly every mill village had a team and offered ample opportunity for an extra player to play in one game.
While working as a teacher and a coach at Landis High School, Razz lived with Rev. CP Fisher, Sr. (Jr. later became a minister also.) According to Razz´s son, Rev. Hollis Miller, Razz had given serious thought to entering the ministry earlier, but he loved teaching and coaching and being free to play ball during the summer. This meant money year-round, something that not everybody had during this time. The time that Miller spent with Rev. Fisher and his wife greatly affected him and would later influence his decision to answer the call of the ministry.
Miller entered the Lutheran Theological Seminary and graduated in 1934. Beginning in June, 1934, he served for two years at Calvary Lutheran Church in Concord. He continued, however, with the approval of his church, to play semi-pro ball a couple of times a week. He resigned from the ministry in May, 1936.
According to his son, Hollis, his love of coaching, teaching, and playing ball, coupled with the financial difficulties that were pervasive in small depression-era churches led him to decide that he "may not be cut out for the ordained ministry."
Two incidents during this time period may help explain Razz´s decision to give up the ministry.
Fred Chapman of Kannapolis, NC, played semi-pro baseball with Razz. Chapman was later signed by the Washington Senators and was assigned to Albany, NY, of the International League. He later played three years for the Philadelphia Athletics and finally many years in the minor leagues.
Chapman told the story of looking back at the team bench during one of the numerous fights that broke out during the semi-pro games. Razz was sitting there with his head hanging between his legs. Chapman, knowing that Miller never participated in any of the fights, walked back to the bench and asked, "Razz, what's wrong?"Razz replied, "Fred, I´ve either got to quit playing ball or quit preaching. I can´t go on like this"not backing up my teammates."
The second incident occurred when the Landis Cardinals of the 1934 Carolina Textile semi-pro league offered Razz $15 per game to play when he was only making $50 a month at his church. Playing three to four games a week meant more money than preaching for a month. (The average textile worker was only making $10-12 a week if he was fortunate enough to get a full week´s work during the depression) Although the church gave Miller permission to play as long as it did not interfere with his church work, the pressure and responsibility of two jobs that did not necessarily complement each other were too much, especially for a man of Razz Miller´s character.
Incidentally, an analysis of semi-pro records shows that the 1935 Landis Cardinals were one of the best semi-pro teams to ever play in the Piedmont textile towns. They finished with a 49-24 record and won both the league pennant and playoff. Razz Miller played well enough to be named the league´s all-star center fielder.
In 1936, despite the efforts of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, eight Piedmont North Carolina textile towns formed an independent full six games per week baseball league. Professional players, in organized baseball, from all over the country flocked to Piedmont North Carolina in search of baseball jobs that included off-season mill work. Their eagerness was spurred as well by a nationwide unemployment rate that ran from 20 to 25%. This league would last for three years through 1938.
In May 1936, after resigning from the ministry, Razz Miller joined the Kannapolis Towelers in the 1936 independent Carolina League. For the next three off-seasons he would work at Cannon Mills. The outlaw league was challenging, but it was also a financial blessing for Miller. As his son Hollis noted, "About that outlaw league, Dad never did go into too much detail but that it was a very fast brand of ball and a lot of players in that league had just come out of the majors or the high minor leagues because of the way the teams got some of their players but Dad said they were good.He said you had to be a good player to make one of the teams and to stay with it. The league was very competitive and my dad, even though he was a preacher, was a competitor. I don´t know whether the baseball rules went out the window or not, but I had the feeling that you had to be a man to play in it. I don´t know what governed that league. He did work in the mill some, but I remember him saying he could pull down enough money in the summer - it was good pay in that day and time, so he didn´t have to work in the winter."
In terms of baseball, the outlaw years were good for Miller. He batted over .300 each year and held the reputation as one of the best outfielders in the league. For his team, the Kannapolis Towelers, 1937 was their big year when they won the league pennant by three games over their arch rivals, the Concord Weavers.
After the Carolina League collapsed at the end of the 1938 season, Razz Miller finally joined organized professional baseball. He played for the 1939 Martinsville (VA) Manufacturers in the Class D Bi State League.
Before the 1939 season ended in Martinsville, VA, Miller began a second job. He returned to teaching and coaching at Southmont High School in Lexington, NC. Razz would travel to games each night and return to teach the next morning. It was during this 1939-40 school year that he met Ruth Hollis, English and French teacher at Southmont. Little did they know at the time that they would become man and wife on May 25, 1941.
Ruth Hollis was the daughter of a Baptist minister. When people asked Razz how he talked the daughter of a Baptist minister into marrying a man that was not only a coach and a teacher but also an ordained Lutheran minister, he replied jokingly and with a glint in his eye, "It took a Lutheran to save her."
After completing that first school year at Southmont, Miller signed with the 1940 Kannapolis Towelers in the Class D NC State League. He ended the season, however, with the Thomasville Tommies in the same league. Undoubtedly, this move was necessary in order to locate within several miles of his teaching/coaching job.
Following the 1940-41 school year, Miller, in anticipation of a career in public education, completed the requirements for a school principal´s certificate at Catawba College in Salisbury. That was also the summer that he and Ruth were married. The wedding was delayed for a few weeks when Razz caught the measles from one of his students. They returned to teach the following fall. In their minds, they were to complete their lives teaching, a profession they both truly loved.
Then on December 7, Pearl Harbor was attacked, an event that would ultimately change their lives as it would the lives of many young couples. At the end of the 1941-42 school year, the wartime draft was beginning to take young men from their homes all over America and this included young professional baseball players and school teachers.
Razz had turned thirty-two years of age on November 7, 1941, and the draft had not reached men his age yet. He returned to Class D Professional baseball with the Concord Weavers in the 1942 NC State League. This was to be the last year of the NC State League until the summer of 1945. Although she was pregnant with their first child, Ruth attended as many games as possible that summer. She recalled that on one particularly bad night Razz rushed to dress after the game and was still chewing tobacco when he got into the car. This was the only instance in their lives together that she was around Razz when he was chewing. Needless to say, the aroma of the tobacco and Razz's constant spitting out the window did not help Ruth in her condition.
Miller returned to teaching and coaching at Southmont High for the 1942-43 year. His first child, Hollis, was born in December of that year.
In 1943 the war time draft was catching up even to men of Razz's age. He reported and to his surprise was classified as an "ordained minister" and placed in the chaplain pool for future call-up. Razz knew, of course, that he was an ordained minister, but he also knew that he had not preached in seven years. He had also just completed four years in the North Carolina education system. To a man like Razz Miller, this was both puzzling and troublesome. He would later realize that this was the first step toward being called again to the ministry. During that soul-searching summer of 1943, Miller had his last fling in semi-pro baseball. A Carolina Victory League had been organized with four teams - Salisbury, Landis, Concord, and Charlotte. Razz joined the Concord Weavers on June 5, 1943, but only played a few games before taking on the responsibilities of principal of Southmont High. He began scrambling to find teachers then for the 1943-44 school year.
Miller´s role as principal was short-lived. In November, after just five months in the position, a church committee from the St. Stephens-Mt. Olive Lutheran Parish approached him about becoming minister for their rural parish in Cabarrus County.
Despite the love and satisfaction Razz and Ruth felt for their careers in education, they were now confronted by a pivotal decision. Razz´s surprise draft classification as "ordained minister" followed by this new call to preach God´s word caused them to re-evaluate the purpose of their work and lives. Would this be the final step of being once again called to carry the message of God to their neighbors in Rowan and Cabarrus counties? They were perplexed as Ruth said, "I knew I married a teacher, coach and baseball player, but I knew Razz Miller. For four years I had watched Razz, how he related to students and adults, how his concern and love for all he met made our lives and the lives of others richer. This was truly his calling."
Glenn Allen "Razz" Miller served as the minister to the St. Stephens-Mt. Olive Lutheran Parish in Cabarrus County from 1944-1950. In 1950, he was called to Trinity Lutheran Church in Vale, NC where he remained for nine years. In 1959, St. Peter´s Lutheran Church in southeastern Rowan County, where parishioners had known Razz Miller as a farm boy, athlete, school teacher and coach called him back to minister to them. He retired from St. Peter's in 1974.
Razz Miller was a complex man who assumed many roles during his life. Besides teaching, coaching, preaching, and playing ball, he was an avid hunter and outdoorsman. As his son Hollis said, "My Dad was a man´s man. He had the preacher side of him. He was a religious and spiritual man but not a pious Christian but one who had deep faith in God. Blended in all that was a teacher, coach, an athlete. Also he was a big hunter. He loved to fox hunt until later in life when he couldn't stay out at night like you have to or stay up at night. He also did other kinds of hunting: quail hunting, bird hunting, rabbit, squirrel, possum, just about all of it.
In our home, growing up, there were all kinds of trophies that Dad's dogs had won for hunting at different field trials all over the states of North and South Carolina. My mother was from Tennessee - he had trophies from there too. He judged a lot of dog shows in North Carolina and Tennessee. Dad always kept fox hounds and beagles, always had a pack of dogs. And even to his death in 1981, at the age of 71, there were dogs to to feed and take care of. He loved his dogs. He loved baseball and hunting, outside his family and his church."
A final story that shows how his loves often competed for his attention begins with him preaching one Sunday morning. Everyone in the congregation began to hear the howl of hounds chasing their prey. Of course, Razz heard the dogs also, and the more he heard the dogs, the faster he preached. "One of the shortest sermons I ever heard," declared Frank Hopkins. Immediately after the close of the service, Razz jumped into a car with several other members to join the chase.
Razz Miller died May 13, 1981 in Rockwell, NC. On that date, after praying with his wife for the Roman Catholic Pope who had been shot that day, Razz went out to attend to his hunting dogs. He died of heart failure in the dog pen, among his beloved animals.