Four cracks of the bat and history was made on June 15, 1947. It happened in the small mill town of Lindale, Georgia. Lindale was founded in the late 1800’s as a cotton mill town, and the Pepperell Dragons baseball team was the pride of the area.
The sun beat down on a hot, lazy Sunday afternoon at the ballpark adjacent to Pepperell Mill. The Pepperell Dragons were playing Tubize in a Northwest Georgia Textile League baseball game. The semi-pro Textile league saw some of its stars later play in the majors, such as Willard Nixon, “the Yankee killer,” who left pitching for the Pepperell Dragons to play several seasons for the Boston Red Sox.
The stands were filled with Lindaleans, including eleven year old Suzanne Hall. Her father, “Shorty” Hall, played third base for the Dragons and worked in the sanforizing room at the mill. The youngest of ten siblings, Ernest Olin had moved from Valley Head, Alabama to Lindale in the early 30’s to play baseball for the Dragons. While playing short stop in high school in Valley Head, Alabama, somebody dubbed him “Shorty.” It was a humorous nickname he would carry for the rest of his life, given the fact that the now lanky third baseman was 6’ 2’’. He met and married Marguerite Clements, and shortly after, their only child, Suzanne, was born.
Shorty batted fifth in the lineup and would appear at the plate six times during the game. As he strode to the plate for his first at bat, no one in the stands realized what would happen, including fifteen year old Lewis Allen, who saw it all from a knothole in the outfield fence. He didn’t have the money to purchase a ticket for the game.
Shorty Hall belted a home run during his first at bat. His second trip to the plate resulted in another round tripper. Mr. Spalding was given another ride out of the park his third time up. When his fourth at bat rolled around, fans cheered him on. Could he do it a fourth time? With a swing of the bat, the crowd went wild as Shorty Hall’s long fly ball sailed a fourth time over the outfield fence. His fifth trip to the plate is the only time, so he told me years later, he tried to hit a home run. Instead he had to settle for a single. Tubize finally wised up and issued him an intentional walk his sixth trip to the plate. It was too little too late though, as Pepperell handed Tubize a 25 to 4 trouncing.
Although rare in semi-pro or pro ball, a few hitters have slugged four homers in a single game. But that is not what made this day history. The four home runs came in four consecutive at bats off four different pitchers! Such a feat has never been accomplished in semi-pro or pro baseball as far as I know. The local newspaper’s story led with this line: “Third Baseman Shorty Hall hung up a home run performance Sunday afternoon that would probably make Robert L. Ripley sit up and take notice.” (Rome New Tribune, “Lindale, Brighton Whip League Foes Sunday: Shorty Hall Bags 4 Homers to Lead Pepp Batting Attack,” June 16, 1947).
Robert Ripley did indeed sit up and take notice. On September 6, 1947, he added “Shorty” Hall’s feat to his famous “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” collection. The entry is still there today and reads “Shorty Hall, Lindale, Ga., Hit 4 Home Runs in 4 Consecutive Innings off 4 Different Pitchers—Georgia Textile League.” Not bad for an Alabama farm boy whose only claim to fame up until this time was that he had played one season of football with fellow student Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. (The “Bear” was known for his “colorful metaphors” in his playing days as much as in his coaching days!—so I was informed by Shorty many years later).
Shorty had garnered the attention of pro scouts prior to this feat and had been offered a contract to play professionally with the Detroit Tigers. He declined, choosing rather to work a regular job at the Lindale mill. I once asked him why. His answer: “I didn’t want to drag Marguerite and Suzanne around the country. That’s not a life for a family.”
My sister Beth and I are grateful that he didn’t, I suppose. You see, eight years later, having returned from a stint in the Army, Lewis Allen, who witnessed it all from his own personal knothole, asked Shorty’s daughter, Suzanne, to marry him. Two years later, Shorty’s only grandson was born.
Everyone else called him “Shorty,” but to me he was always “Grandaddy.” The years have passed since those days, and he is gone now. I miss him. The bat he wielded in that special game now hangs on the wall in my mother’s house. In the world of such baseball legends as Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, not many remember the day when a 36 year old mill worker became somewhat of a legend himself, at least in Lindale, Georgia. Just ask the “old timers” around town and they will tell you when it comes to hitting four home runs off four different pitchers in four consecutive at bats, “Shorty” Hall is in a league of his own.