Sammy Byrd

Samuel Dewey Byrd (October 5, 1906 – May 11, 1981) was an American professional baseball outfielder and professional golfer. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) and on the PGA Tour. Byrd is the only person to play in both the World Series and the Masters Tournament.[1]

Sammy Byrd
Born(1906-10-05)October 5, 1906
DiedMay 11, 1981(1981-05-11) (aged 74)

Baseball career
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
May 11, 1929, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
September 27, 1936, for the Cincinnati Reds
MLB statistics
Batting average.274
Home runs38
Runs batted in220
Career highlights and awards

Golf career
Turned professional1933
Former tour(s)PGA Tour
Professional wins11
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour6
Best results in major championships
Masters Tournament3rd: 1941
PGA Championship2nd: 1945
U.S. OpenT16: 1939
The Open ChampionshipDNP

Byrd made his professional baseball debut in 1926, and made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees in 1929. He was primarily a reserve player, and saw action as a defensive replacement and pinch runner for Babe Ruth, which earned him the nickname "Babe Ruth's Legs". The Yankees sold Byrd to the Cincinnati Reds before the 1935 season, and he retired from baseball to pursue a career as a professional golfer after the 1936 season. He won six PGA events during his career.

Early life

Samuel Dewey Byrd was born on October 15, 1906, in Bremen, Georgia,[2] as the second of four children of Rhone and Delphia Byrd. He was often known by his middle name when he was growing up. His family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1911. They lived near a golf course, where he worked as a caddy. He graduated from Birmingham's Simpson High School, where he played baseball and basketball. His father, who worked in construction, trained him to be a bricklayer.[3]

Baseball career

After playing sandlot baseball in Birmingham, Byrd signed with the Birmingham Barons of the Class A Southern Association in 1926. The Barons optioned him to the Jonesboro Buffaloes of the Class D Tri-State League before the start of the season.[3] He had a .348 batting average with three home runs in 59 games for Jonesboro.[4] The league folded during the season,[3] and he finished the season with the Alexandria Reds of the Class D Cotton States League, where he batted .238 with one home run in 25 games.[5] He played for the Knoxville Smokies of the Class B South Atlantic League in 1927, where he batted .331 with 15 home runs in 140 games.[6] During the 1927 season, the New York Yankees purchased Byrd's contract.[7] In 1928, the Yankees optioned Byrd to the Albany Senators of the Class A Eastern League, and he batted .371 with 18 home runs in 130 games.[8][9]

Byrd made his Major League Baseball debut with the Yankees on May 11, 1929, as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement for Earle Combs.[3] When Babe Ruth fell ill in June, Byrd started for the Yankees in his place from June 2 to 18.[3][10] He batted .312 with five home runs in 202 plate appearances across 62 games for the Yankees in 1929.[11] In 1930, Byrd batted .284 with six home runs in 254 plate appearances across 92 games.[12] He batted .270 with three home runs in 281 plate appearances across 115 games in 1931.[13]

Byrd got a big opportunity to be the starting center fielder for the Yankees in 1932, as Combs went to the bench.[14] Using a 34-ounce (960 g) baseball bat, in place of the 37-ounce (1,000 g) bats he usually used, helped him to match his home run total for all of 1931 before April 1932 ended.[15] By May, Byrd was experiencing sinus problems and Combs had retaken the starting center fielding job.[3][16] Aside from a 15 game stretch in September, Byrd spent the rest of the 1932 season backing up the starting outfield of Ruth, Combs, and Ben Chapman.[17] He finished the 1932 season with a .297 average and eight home runs in 243 plate appearances across 105 games.[18] Byrd made one appearance in the 1932 World Series as a defensive replacement for Ruth in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4.[3] In 1933, Byrd batted .280 with two home runs in 122 plate appearances in 85 games.[19] In 1934, he batted .246 with three home runs in 218 plate appearances across 106 games.[20] Byrd led American League outfielders with a .988 fielding percentage in 1934, committing two errors in 160 chances.[21]

After the 1934 season, the Yankees sold Byrd to the Cincinnati Reds.[22] Byrd played for the Reds as a starting outfielder in 1935, alongside Chick Hafey, with Ival Goodman, Harlin Pool, and Adam Comorosky competing for the remaining playing time.[23] He batted .262 with nine home runs in 460 plate appearances in 121 games.[24] Heading into the 1936 season, Cincinnati started Goodman, Babe Herman, and Kiki Cuyler in the outfield,[25] and Byrd returned to a reserve role.[3] He batted .248 with two home runs in 153 plate appearances in 59 games during the 1936 season.[26]

The Reds traded Byrd to the Rochester Red Wings of the International League for Phil Weintraub and Jack Rothrock following the 1936 season. Byrd refused the assignment to the minor leagues, and announced in February 1937 that he was retiring from baseball to focus on his golf career. Cincinnati sent Rochester another player to complete the trade, and sold Byrd to the St. Louis Cardinals, who sent him a new contract[27] for $10,000. After consulting with Jones, Ed Dudley, and Bill McWane,[28] Byrd informed the Cardinals that he still intended to retire and pursue a career in golf.[29]

Byrd was called "Babe Ruth's Legs", a reference to the fact that he often would appear as a pinch runner and defensive replacement for Ruth at the end of games toward the latter part of Ruth's career.[3][1] In 745 major league games, Byrd posted a .274 batting average (465-for-1,700) with 304 runs, 38 home runs, 220 runs batted in, and a .412 slugging percentage. He recorded a .975 fielding percentage playing at all three outfield positions.[30]

Golf career

Upon joining the Yankees, Byrd quickly developed the reputation of being the best golfer in professional baseball.[31][32] In 1930, Bobby Jones played a round of golf with Byrd, and called Byrd "the very best man with a driver I ever saw."[33] Byrd won the first tournament he entered, the amateur portion of the 1933 Southeastern PGA Open.[34][35] He made his professional golf debut in a tournament at the Pinehurst Resort in November 1933.[36] In January 1937, he won a golf tournament of baseball players in Sarasota, Florida, by fourteen strokes.[37]

When Byrd retired from baseball in 1937, he became an assistant to Dudley at the Philadelphia Country Club.[29] He tied with Abe Espinosa for fifth place in the 1938 Cresent City Open[38] and tied with Ralph Guldahl for fourth place of the 1938 St. Petersburg Open Invitational.[39] In July 1939, Byrd won the Philadelphia Open Championship.[40] In 1940, Byrd became the golf pro at the Merion Golf Club in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania.[41] He competed in the 1940 Masters Tournament and tied for 14th place, becoming the first person to play in both a World Series and a Masters Tournament.[1]

At the 1941 Providence Open, Byrd set a competitive record at Triggs Memorial Golf Course when he shot a 66, six under par, in the first round.[42] He finished in third place in the 1941 Masters Tournament.[1] He won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1942 with a 279, five under par, two strokes ahead of Ben Hogan and Lloyd Mangrum.[43] He finished in fourth place in the 1942 Masters Tournament.[1] In June 1942, Byrd won the Pennsylvania Open Championship by seven shots over Henry Ransom. Byrd setting a course record with a 64, seven under par, in the second round.[44] He won the Chicago Victory National Open in 1943 with a score of 277, five strokes ahead of Craig Wood.[45]

Byrd resigned from the Merion Golf Club to succeed Jimmy Demaret as the golf pro at the Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield, Michigan, effective November 1, 1943.[41] In February 1944, he won the New Orleans Open with a score of 285, five strokes ahead of Byron Nelson.[46] In June 1944, Byrd won the Philadelphia Inquirer Open Invitational.[47] He won the Michigan PGA Championship in July 1944 with a score of 142, while Harmon, Jack Winney, and Al Watrous tied with 145,[48] and won the Michigan Open in August 1944 with a score of 208, while Claude Harmon finished in second with 214.[49] In January 1945, Byrd won the Texas Open with a score of 268, beating Nelson by one stroke, and setting a new Texas Open record, which had previously been 271.[50][51] Byrd lost the final of the 1945 PGA Championship to Nelson, 4 and 3, in match play.[52]

Byrd defended his Michigan PGA Championship title in August 1945, beating Chick Rutan by two strokes, 142 to 144.[53] In November 1945, he won the Azalea Open, beating Dutch Harrison in a playoff by one stroke, after they both shot 283.[54] In March 1946, Byrd teamed with Sam Snead in the Inverness Invitational Four-Ball, which they lost to Demaret and Hogan.[55] Byrd hosted the 1947 PGA Championship, which was held at Plum Hollow Country Club.[56] In the 1948 Masters Tournament, he tallied the highest score ever at the second hole, recording a 10. He finished the round with a 12-over-par 84.[57] He retired from the PGA Tour in 1949.[3]

On April 1, 1963, Byrd became the golf pro at Willowbrook Country Club.[28] Byrd won his last tournament, a Senior PGA Tour event, in 1967.[34] He served as the golf pro for ten years at the Anniston County Club in Anniston, Alabama, until he retired in 1978.[58]

PGA Tour wins (6)

Other wins (5)

This list is probably incomplete.
  • 1939 Philadelphia Open Championship[40]
  • 1942 Pennsylvania Open Championship[44]
  • 1944 Michigan Open,[49] Michigan PGA Championship[48]
  • 1945 Michigan PGA Championship[53]

Results in major championships

Tournament 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951
Masters Tournament T14 3 4 NT NT NT 40 47
U.S. Open CUT T16 41 T26 NT NT NT NT CUT T23 T37 CUT T49
PGA Championship R32 NT R16 2 R64 R64 R64
Note: Byrd never played in The Open Championship.
  Top 10
  Did not play
NT = no tournament
CUT = missed the half-way cut
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF = round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Personal life

Byrd married Rachel Elizabeth Smith of Birmingham in October 1932, days after the conclusion of the 1932 World Series. Teammate Bill Dickey was his best man.[3][59] Their daughter, Catherine, was born in 1939.[3] After Rachel died in 1979, Byrd moved to Gilbert, Arizona, to be closer to his daughter.[58]

Byrd was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1974 for his accomplishments in golf and baseball.[33] He died in Mesa, Arizona, on May 11, 1981.[60]

See also


  1. Bertha, Mike (April 9, 2015). "Remembering Sam Byrd: The only guy to play in The Masters and the World Series". Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  2. Jones, Jimmy (March 17, 1934). "Famous Georgia Athletes". The Atlanta Constitution. p. 8. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  3. "Sammy Byrd". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  4. "1926 Jonesboro Buffaloes Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  5. "1926 Alexandria Reds Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  6. "1927 Knoxville Smokies Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  7. "Going Up: Yankees Buy Slugging Dewey Byrd, Outfielder, in Sally League". The Tribune. August 30, 1927. p. 16. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  8. Royal, Chip (August 27, 1943). "Sammy Byrd, Former Yank, Wins New Success at Golf". The Portsmouth Herald. Associated Press. p. 8. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  9. "1928 Albany Senators Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  10. "Ruth Out With Cold". Johnson City Staff-News. Associated Press. June 4, 1929. p. 2. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  11. "1929 New York Yankees Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  12. "1930 New York Yankees Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  13. "1931 New York Yankees Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  14. Hunt, Marshall (May 1, 1932). "He's a Bird - That Byrd! New Home Run Hitter Sensation of Yanks". New York Daily News. p. 28. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  15. Ritt, William (April 27, 1932). "Byrd Uses Lighter Bat, Changes Style of Grip, Becomes Slugging Hero". The Parsons Sun. Central Press Association. p. 7. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  16. Meany, Tom (May 22, 1932). "Yankee Recruits Can't Oust Combs". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. p. 3-B. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  17. "Byrd, Yank Ace, Turns Up Nose At Golf Career". The Tampa Tribune. January 12, 1933. p. 9. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  18. "1932 New York Yankees Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  19. "1933 New York Yankees Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  20. "1934 New York Yankees Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  21. "Gehrig Takes Second Place For Fielding". The Anniston Star. United Press. December 5, 1934. p. 8. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  22. Husted, Bob (December 20, 1934). "The Referee". The Dayton Herald. p. 20. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  23. "Sammy Byrd May Become Star With Reds In 1935". Palladium-Item. January 21, 1935. p. 8. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  24. "1935 Cincinnati Reds Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  25. Husted, Bob (April 13, 1936). "The Referee". The Dayton Herald. p. 16. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  26. "1936 Cincinnati Reds Statistics". Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  27. House, Jack (February 26, 1937). "Dewey Byrd Back In Majors After Deal With Cards". The Birmingham News. p. 18. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  28. "Switch to Golf Was Good Move for Byrd". The Huntsville Times. March 31, 1963. p. D-2. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  29. "Dewey Byrd Gives Up Baseball For Position As Pro Linksman". The Birmingham News. March 7, 1937. p. 33. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  30. Bleile, Gene (May 30, 2019). "He hit thirty-eight homers!". Cape Gazette. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  31. Conklin, Les (May 10, 1929). "Sammy Byrd, Warming Yank Bench, Is Best Golfer In the Big Leagues". The Tribune. International News Service. p. 2. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  32. Neil, Edward J. (November 19, 1933). "Sammy Byrd, Yank Fielder, Joins Professional Golfers; Has Good Future, Says Neil". The Tampa Tribune. Associated Press. p. 15. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  33. Thompson, Ian (May 25, 2020). "MR. GOLF: Sam Byrd has lots of local ties". Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  34. Kaese, Harold (June 27, 1971). "Sammy Byrd, baseball's king of golf". The Boston Globe. p. 85. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  35. "Tony Penna Annexes Southeast P.G.A. Title". The Miami Herald. Associated Press. October 30, 1933. p. 7. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  36. "Runyan-M'Farlane Team's 132 WIns Best Ball Event". Record-Journal. Associated Press. November 15, 1933. p. 4. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  37. "BYRD SCORES 284, WINS AT SARASOTA; Ex-Yankee, Even With Par for 72 Holes, Takes Baseball Players' Golf Title". The New York Times. January 25, 1937. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  38. "Cooper Winner In Golf Event". Salt Lake Telegram. International News Service. February 22, 1938. p. 16. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  39. "Harper Ties Revolta In St. Petersburg Open Meet". The Tampa Tribune. Associated Press. March 5, 1938. p. 17. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  40. "Sammy Byrd Wins Philadelphia Open". The Whittier News. United Press. July 19, 1939. p. 4. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  41. Morrow, Art (October 20, 1943). "Byrd Leaves Merion For Detroit Pro Job". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 35. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  42. "Byrd Leads at Providence". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Associated Press. September 27, 1941. p. 11. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  43. "Sammy Byrd Garners Golf Tilt With 279". The Pasadena Post. United Press. March 30, 1942. p. 4. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  44. Gundelfinger Jr., Phil (June 30, 1942). "Byrd's 132, 10-Under, Wins State Open". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 12. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  45. "Sammy Byrd Cops Title In Victory Open Meet". Star-Gazette. United Press. August 23, 1943. p. 9. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  46. "Byrd Takes Top Honors With a 72-Hole Total of 285 on New Orleans Links; 5-STROKE MARGIN FOR GOLF VICTOR Byrd 285 Score Leads Nelson as Four-Day $5,000 Open Competition Ends M'SPADEN THIRD AT 291 New Orleans Tourney Brings $3,161,000 Total in War Bond Purchases". The New York Times. February 29, 1944. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  47. Keck, Harry (June 15, 1944). "Sammy Byrd Better As Golfer Than He Was in Baseball". Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. p. 20. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  48. "Byrd State Golf Champ". The Times Herald. Associated Press. July 24, 1944. p. 9. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  49. "Nelson Shoots 277 to Triump; Byrd's 208 Wins Michigan Open". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Associated Press. August 7, 1944. p. 14. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  50. "BYRD'S 268 TAKES TEXAS OPEN GOLF; Sammy's Total of 16 Under Par Enables Him to Top Nelson in San Antonio Tourney TRIUMPHS BY ONE STROKE McSpaden in Third Place With 270-Three Leaders Better the Scoring Mark of 271 Persuaded to Play Only Two 6-Stroke Holes". The New York Times. January 29, 1945. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  51. "Sammy Byrd Wins With Golf Record". The Minneapolis Star. January 29, 1945. p. 12. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  52. Howell, Eritz (July 16, 1945). "Byron Nelson Stages Late Rally to Take PGA Gonfalon". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. Associated Press. p. 8. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  53. "Sam Byrd Wins Title". The Eugene Guard. Associated Press. August 20, 1945. p. 2. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  54. "Sammy Byrd Wins Azalea Open Golf Tournament". The Salt Lake Tribune. November 20, 1945. p. 15. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  55. "4-BALL GOLF TITLE TO HOGAN-DEMARET; Texas Pros Defeat Snead and Byrd by 2 Up in Final 36-Hole Round at Miami LONG PUTT ENDS MATCH Ben Sinks 20-Footer on Last Green for Birdie 3 That Clinches Triumph Halve 4 Holes in Row Lead Shaved to 1-Up". The New York Times. March 11, 1946. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  56. "Sam Byrd Host To PGA Players". The Pittsburgh Press. United Press. June 17, 1947. p. 22. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  57. "Sam Byrd - 1948 Masters". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  58. "Sports great Sam Byrd dies". The Anniston Star. May 12, 1981. p. 1. Retrieved February 20, 2021 via
  59. "Yank Gardener Espouses Bride". Clarion-Ledger. Associated Press. October 5, 1932. p. 15. Retrieved February 19, 2021 via
  60. "Sammy Byrd, Played For Yanks and Reds, Then Starred in Golf". The New York Times. May 14, 1981. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
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