Nov 27

Shires Goes to Senators in Big Trade

We want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

This is an interesting tale about another unique player.

17 June 1930, Washington acquires Art Shires from the White Sox in exchange for Garland Braxton and Bennie Tate. Of the trade one paper wrote, “Arthur (The Great) Shires, first baseman, ex-box fighter and after-dinner speaker of no mean talent, has been traded by the White Sox to Washington, where oratory is appreciated.”

The trade triggered a manhunt on the part of the scribes. Shires was finally located by the reporters in the early morning hours. In response to questions Shires responded, “Why should Manager Donie Bush keep me. When he’s got Bud Clancy, who plays first base as good as I do? By trading me, he gets what he needs; and I get with a ball club that’s up there in the race. Everybody admires Walter Johnson, and none more than I. Washington, you know, was the first major league club I ever played with. It was in 1925, just after I left school, and I was with the club about a month.”

Shires was a bigger than life personality who made headlines in the roaring twenties and into depression era with his mouth and a strong right hook. His nicknames; “The Great One” and “What A Man,” make a statement, even his trunk was famous. A hard-hitting first baseman, he collected four hits in his first game. His quote, “So this is the great American League I’ve heard so much about, I’ll hit .400,” became headline news all across the nation.

He began his baseball career joining Washington in 1925. From 1926 to 1928 he played with Waco in the Texas League. The White Sox bought him the latter part of the 1928 season. Shires hit .343 his rookie year. He celebrated by renting an entire coach on his return to his home in Texas and then staged his own parade.

Shires enjoyed cordial relations with Donie Bush, saying, “Donie is a mighty smart baseball man.” His relations with former manager Lena Blackburne were anything but cordial. Shires went to plate one day wearing a red bonnet. After the game Shires and Blackburne, according to the press, “exchanged rights and lefts.” Shires was said to have remarked, “There isn’t very much for me to say.” Blackburne was not the only one to get a pair of black eyes, according to other reports so did Lou Barbour, the Traveling Secretary.

On 14 August 1928 Shires was suspended from playing baseball. Shires declared to the press that he would seek the heavyweight championship. His new career would be lucrative and like his baseball one, controversial.

In his first fight he knocked Dan Daly out in the first round on 9 December in Chicago. Shires also made money on the wrestling circuit. Kennesaw Mountain Landis had to step in and ban Hack Wilson from fighting Shires, although some say Wilson backed out of the fight. In the spring Landis forced Shires to choose between boxing and baseball. Landis declaring he could not do both, so Shires returned to baseball, reportedly walking away from over $100,00 in contracts.

Before he could sign with the White Sox he had to answer some questions from the team about his brief boxing career. Shires was accused of attempting to “fix” a match with Battling Criss in Detroit, but was exonerated by the Michigan State Athletic Commission. Later “Dangerous Dan” Daly, his first knockout victim in the ring, charged he took a “dive” by request, and the Illinois Athletic Commission opened an investigation. Daly failed to appear at the hearing, and Shires was again exonerated. Daly was suspended for life in Illinois. So Shires was cleared to return to baseball, batting .312 for Chicago.

Shires played with Chicago and Washington in 1930. He was sent to Milwaukee in the American Association in 1931 and won the batting title. He ended his professional career with Fort Worth in 1934, the Great Shires done in by what was said to be a bad knee. In the 1930s Shires was making headlines and money boxing and in what he called the “wrestling racket.” He operated a restaurant in Dallas during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1948 he was charged with murder when WH “Hi” Erwin, a former baseball player, who died two months after a friendly drink with Shires turned into a fight. Shires was said to have not only hit him with his fists but stomped on his head with his shoes. The court found Erwin’s death came from pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. Shires was fined for simple assault. He died of lung cancer in 1967 in his home town of Italy, Texas.

Did you know? Lena Blackburne discovered and marketed a mud used to take rub down baseballs. The product is still on the market.

Did You Know? In October 1923 when the Old Fox released Bush it was rumored that Frank Chance would be signed to manage the Senators.