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In 1953, long-time sportswriter Thomas Holmes (not to be confused with popular outfielder Tommy Holmes) wrote a series for the Brooklyn Daily-Eagle about the Brooklyn Dodgers (formerly The Superbas and The Robins).

"One of the few members of the younger set who looked as if he should have gone further was Jay Partridge . . . He was a second baseman with good hands and a fine arm. He was a left-handed hitter with power. But Partridge was shy and ill at ease with his raucous, rollicking teammates, who were partial to eating tobacco and whose language visibly shocked him."

Obviously, the second baseman didn't stick around very long.

James Bugg Partridge, a native of Mountville, Georgia, was a 23-year-old senior at Oglethorpe University near Atlanta when the Brooklyn Robins signed him in June, 1925. He was described in newspapers as the senior class valedictorian, vice president of the student body, and secretary and treasurer of the Sunday school, carrying a 93 average in all of his studies.

That the young man was so involved with the Sunday school may have been a clue to why a baseball player with so much talent did not succeed in the major leagues. Partridge may simply have been too nice for the game.

HE WAS assigned to the Waterbury (Connecticut) Brasscos of the Class A Eastern League, where he led the team in batting with a .305 average, but committed 38 errors in 98 games.

It took only one more season in the minors for Partridge to advance to Brooklyn, but, frankly, the 1926 statistics listed on baseball-reference.com require an explanation which is not offered. According to those statistics, Partridge played 195 games that season, 39 of them with the Jackson (Mississippi) Senators of the Class D Cotton States League, where he was used as a shortstop. Perhaps that was an experiment, because he played 157 games at second base with the Nashville (Tennessee) Volunteers of the Class A Southern Association.

Some minor leagues had longer seasons back then, and the Cotton States League must have started in early March for Partridge to play so many games before joining Nashville, where he was regarded as the best fielding second baseman in the league. More strikingly, he batted .333. His 12 home runs tied him with first baseman Polly McLarry for most on the team. Both men threw with their right hands, and swung a bat backhanded.

[Digression: Since I was the same way, this has always been a sore point with me. I'm sure neither Partridge, McLarry, or Ted Williams, for that matter, swung a bat left-handed, yet that's how they are categorized. The right hand controls the bat. For the like of me, I don't know why every right-handed ballplayer doesn't prefer the backhanded swing. Anyway, Partridge's batting preference becomes significant later in his career when he returns to Nashville.]

POLLY McLARRY had the highest batting average on the 1926 Nashville team, beating Partridge by one point. However, the first baseman was 35 years old; he wasn't going anywhere.

That wasn't true of Partridge. Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson thought he was ready for the major leagues, and the young man won the second base job in 1927 by playing well in spring training, which ended at Ebbets Field with an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. A three-run homer by Babe Ruth helped the Yankees win, 6-5, but a day later, on April 10, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle put the spotlight on the Robins' 24-year-old rookie:

“Jimmy Jay Partridge, second baseman from Nashville, was the outstanding spectacle among the younger set of Robins. Jimmy Jay made one hit, stole a base with a beautiful fall-away slide after the ball had him beaten, and started a lightning double play that hinted at the much improved condition of the Brooklyn defense.”


Notice the newspaper referred to him as "Jimmy Jay." I saw only a few such references, all in 1927, and all from New York City area newspapers. My guess is it was a small joke that resulted from reading biographical material provided by the team in which the player was listed as Jimmy "Jay" Partridge, or James "Jay" Partridge, and rather than simply use the obvious nickname, the writers preferred to go with what some considered a prototypical Southern name. Jimmy Jay Partridge is right up there with Billy Bob Thornton.

And despite good reviews the second baseman received in Nashville and during spring training with the Robins, Daily Eagle sportswriters obviously had concerns about the young man's fielding, and kept tabs on his performances. The May 11 edition of the newspaper reported that Partridge had played 13 consecutive games without an error, handling 74 chances perfectly since April 23.

That soon changed.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1927
Jimmy Jay Partridge has fallen into a temporary fielding slump and has not been hitting any too well, although he came up with three timely hits yesterday. Upon various occasions the past week, Partridge has gummed up pop flies either by losing them in the sun or by getting into some outfielder’s way.

The Braves made him look bad yesterday by charging into second base as Partridge was attempting to pivot a double play. Four times opposing runners tried that stunt in the course of the holiday double-header; three times they spoiled the play. They never will stop unless Partridge hits some runner between the eyes with the ball or comes close enough to that little thing to make them get wise. One of the “charges” yesterday was flagrant enough to cause Capt. Max Carey to come dashing in from the outfield with a claim of interference.

PARTRIDGE'S complacency would be his undoing. His hitting suffered, though his .260 batting average was higher than three other starters, but after his promising start in the field, he made 52 errors, by far the most on the team. In fact, he committed more errors than any Brooklyn second baseman had made since 1899. In summarizing his performance, a Brooklyn Eagle sportswriter (probably Holmes) said Jay Partridge "impersonated a second baseman."

Not surprisingly, he lost his starting job in 1928 because, said the Eagle, he got worse instead of better. Brooklyn farmed him out to the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, which was a homecoming of sorts for Partridge, who responded by batting .341 in 49 games. There was speculation he would return to the major leagues in 1929, perhaps with the Washington Senators.

But Partridge would never play another big league game. Instead, he remained in the Southern Association, but did it in a Nashville uniform. He batted .318, hitting 12 home runs, second best on the team. Again there was talk he might return to the major leagues, but he spent 1930 in Nashville, where work had been done on the Volunteers' unusual ball park, called Sulphur Dell.

At first glance, the short right field fence seemed to favor hitters, but the field was laid out in such a way that batters faced the sun in the afternoons, when the games were played, a situation that favored pitchers, but was potentially dangerous, should a batter lose sight of an inside pitch coming his way.

BUT IN 1930, the field was turned around, and batters had a much better view of the pitches coming their way, and that right field fence seemed closer than ever. Right and center fielders, never fond of playing at Sulphur Dell, now had reason to hate the place. Not only was the right field fence a mere 262 feet from home plate, but there was a rather sharp embankment that began 38 feet from the fence, and rose 25 feet.

And it was in 1930 that baseballs were unusually lively, especially in the National League. Maybe the balls weren't a factor in what happened in Nashville that season, but ...

Jay Partridge, who'd hit 37 home runs — total — in five seasons, became a junior Babe Ruth, blasting 40 homers. He had 214 hits in all, and a batting average of .361. Detracting from that performance just a bit was the fact one of Partridge’s teammates, first baseman Jim Poole, another backhanded swinger, batted .364 with 50 home runs. (In a previous life, Poole had played 283 games with the Philadelphia Athletics and hit just 13 home runs.)

In 1931, a 22-foot screen was erected on top of the right-field fence at Sulphur Dell, but Partridge and Poole weren't around to deal with the change. They'd been promoted, but only to the Class AA International League, where they remained teammates with the Reading Keystones. Both played 166 games, Poole batting .306 with 24 home runs, while Partridge slipped to .270, with just 11 home runs.

A game to remember — or one to forget?
On April 15, 1931, the Reading Keystones hosted the Montreal Royals. Jay Partridge, batting third, had a perfect night at the plate, going three-for-three, hitting two home runs, scoring three runs and driving in five. He also made four of his team's eight errors, and Montreal won, 16 to 11.


Partridge was with Reading again in 1932, but in mid-season the team moved to Albany. He batted .270 with 10 home runs. Poole may have been a teammate for awhile, but apparently when the Reading team packed up and left for Albany, Poole went to Harrisburg of the New York-Pennsylvania League.

BUT PARTRIDGE and Poole were reunited in 1933, playing with the Winston-Salem Twins of the Class B Piedmont League. The 30-year-old Partridge batted .296 with three home runs; the 38-year-old Poole batted .259 with four home runs.

[Poole retired — for awhile. He unretired four years later and was a player-manager for Class D teams until 1946, when he was 51 years old. At that point, he stopped playing, but was a manager on and off until 1961.]

What happened to Partridge in 1934 has me baffled. In the spring he was back with the Nashville Volunteers (more familiarly known as the Vols), and apparently doing well. The New York Yankees visited Nashville to play two exhibition games on April 6 and 7. The Vols upset the Yankees twice, 5 to 4, and 6 to 5, and Partridge played a key role, doubling home the winning run in the first game, and hitting a home run off Russ Van Atta in the second game.

However, Nashville was a farm team of the New York Giants, who obviously weren't interested in Partridge. Perhaps that's why Partridge was dropped from the team just before the Southern Association season began, and replaced at second base by Al Cuccinello, younger brother of Tony Cuccinello, who was an all-star at that position in 1933 — with Brooklyn.

AL CUCCINELLO was just 19 years old at the time, playing his first season of professional baseball. He was right-handed, batting the traditional way, pushing the bat with his right hand, rather than swinging backhanded. He batted .320, but had no home runs. The left field fence in Nashville was much further from home plate than the fence in right field.

The younger Cuccinello played 22 games for Nashville the following season before advancing to the Giants, but his major league career was even shorter than Partridge's. It lasted 54 games, and he retired three years later, at the age of 23.

As for Jay Partridge, there's no record played anywhere after he was released by Nashville in 1934. He was elected into the Oglethorpe University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1967, and died seven years later, at the age of 71. I found another newspaper article, also by Thomas Holmes, which offers his explanation of Jay Partridge's failure as a major leaguer. I think it's an interesting piece, because it's a longer way of expressing a sports truism made popular by Leo Durocher: "Nice guys finish last." It's something all would-be professional athletes should keep in mind.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 30, 1928
Jay Partridge Had Everything
Except the Baseball Instinct

By THOMAS HOLMES
When Jay Partridge reported to the Brooklyn Robins in the spring of 1927, he made an almost universal hit.

Partridge, it seemed, had everything. He could move around the infield, range equally well to his left or to his right after ground balls. In the exhibition games around Florida’s Grapefruit circuit, Partridge’s batting was hard and timely.

Jay looked like a big leaguer. The trouble was that he didn’t sound like one. Partridge was almost as silent and self-effacing as Bobby Barrett, his Georgian roommate, who was never known to utter a sentence containing more than five short words, or the equivalent.

One afternoon at Clearwater, Partridge set sail after an easy ground ball. He missed it. Partridge muttered a few exasperated words, as any ballplayer would, under the circumstances. A veteran with the club overheard him.

“He said, ‘Aw, piffle!’” the observer reported long afterward. “And that convinced me on the spot that he’d never be a big leaguer.”

The deduction that any second baseman who would say, “Aw, piffle!” after booting an easy grounder lacks ordinary baseball aggressiveness and baseball instinct is a logical one, and, in the case of Partridge, probably true.

Jay had the speed, the eye and the hands, but he simply couldn’t swing into the spirit of the thing.

The weakness on the competitive side of his nature was shown up in bold relief soon after the season started. We believe it was Eddie Brown of the Boston Braves who discovered that he could run into second base on a force play in perfect security.

Brown performed the stunt three or four times in one series with Partridge pivoting on the prospective double play. Each time he flustered Partridge into making a poor throw, and each time the throw was about as far away from Brown’s head as it could possibly be.

Had Partridge whipped the ball past Brownie’s ears the first time Ed charged into the base standing up, you can bet money that the big Boston outfielder would have come in sliding on the following occasion. And had Partridge adopted that method of checking over-ambitious base runners, word would have speedily passed around the league that the new second baseman of the Robins wasn’t a kid to be fooled with.

As the situation developed, Brooklyn probably missed 20 or 25 double plays in the course of the season which, had they been completed, might have materially changed the club’s position in the standings.

One observer reported last winter that he could not recall a single smart or distinctive play performed by Partridge in the entire season. Neither can your reporter. Partridge played ball entirely mechanically. His work lacked even ordinary inspiration and initiative. He did not even attempt and fail on plays that took a little quick thinking. The fact of the matter was that he never got that far.

The odd part of Partridge is that he must have played better ball in the minors the year before he came up with Brooklyn. With Nashville in 1926, Jay broke the Southern Association record for double plays and was touted as one of the most brilliant infielders that fast minor league ever produced. Whatever happened to Jay when he stepped into a big league uniform is one of those little mysteries.

Certainly Partridge lacked something up here. If he were a fighter, you’d call it the “killer” instinct.

Twenty-five years later, when Holmes recalled Partridge's arrival in Brooklyn, he mentioned the significance of the young man's unfortunate utterance.

"That was the beginning of the end," wrote Holmes. "The diffident youngster couldn’t survive the nickname of 'Piffle' Partridge."

 
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