One of baseball’s most revered players, Luke Appling was for nearly twenty years (1930-43, 1945-50) the star shortstop of the American League’s Chicago White Sox.
Born on April 2, 1907, in High Point, North Carolina, Lucius Benjamin “Luke” Appling grew up in Atlanta. He played baseball at Oglethorpe University for two years before joining the Atlanta Crackers baseball team of the Southern Association. In 1930 the Crackers sold his contract to the White Sox. After two nondescript seasons Appling blossomed into one of the game’s greatest hitters. He hit over .300 in sixteen seasons, capturing batting crowns in 1936 (.388) and 1943 (.328). Possessing a keen batting eye, Appling bedeviled pitchers with his ability to foul off pitch after pitch. In all, he collected 2,749 hits for a lifetime batting average of .310. Something of a hypochondriac, he was nicknamed “Old Aches and Pains.” He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.
In 1982, more than thirty years after his retirement, Appling was the centerpiece of one of the most touching moments in baseball history. Playing in the inaugural Cracker Jack Old-Timers Baseball Classic, the seventy-five-year-old legend, who hit only forty-five career home runs, blasted a dramatic round tripper on a pitch thrown by his fellow Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, leading the American League squad to a seven-to-two victory.
Also during his retirement, Appling managed several minor league teams and frequently coached at the major league level. In 1967 he managed the Kansas City Athletics for the final forty games of the season. He moved to Cumming, Georgia, in 1976 to become a minor league hitting instructor for the Atlanta Braves. He died in Cumming on January 3, 1991, and is buried in the city’s Sawnee View Memorial Gardens.