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Published: Thursday, 8/28/2003

Team effort key to '53 Sox title

The 1953 Toledo Sox won the American Association title with a team effort as opposed to the work of several stars.

But the history books remember many Sox fondly. That team included 20 players and coaches who spent time in the major leagues, from the single at-bat Fremont native Russ Kerns had for the Tigers in 1945 to the 12 seasons Bob Chipman spent as a pitcher with three National League teams.

The 1953 Sox included rising stars such as pitcher Gene Conley and infielder Billy Klaus mixed with major league veterans such as Buddy Kerr, Chipman and Walk Dubiel.

Here's a brief look at some of the key members of the 1953 Toledo Sox.

Manager George Selkirk: When he took over for Tommy Holmes as the manager in Toledo in May, it marked the first time in 20 seasons Selkirk wasn't a part of the Yankee organization. “Twinkletoes” originally replaced Babe Ruth as the team's right fielder in 1936 and twice was an All-Star as he played in six World Series in nine seasons.

Charlie Bicknell: The right-hander was second on the Sox in victories and finished with a 15-10 record. He also spent two seasons in the majors with the parent Braves.

Gene Conley: The 6-8 right-hander was the ace of the Sox staff, compiling a 23-9 record and leading the league in nearly every pitching category. Conley was the only Toledo player ever named baseball's minor league player of the year.

Conley went on to pitch 11 seasons in the big leagues, ranking among the National League leaders in victories twice and earning three berths to the all-star team. Once the tallest pitcher in major league history, Conley became the first athlete to play on championship teams in two sports. In 1958 his Milwaukee Braves won the World Series. Conley also played a reserve role as a center on three Boston Celtics' championship teams in the NBA.

Outfielder Sam Jethroe: The talented outfielder was named the National League rookie of the year with the Boston Braves in 1950 and played three full seasons in the majors before coming to Toledo in 1953. With the Sox Jethroe earned post-season all-star honors by batting .314 with 28 homers and 73 RBIs while stealing 26 bases.

“The Jet,” as Jethroe was called, might have had a longer major league career had it not been for the color barrier. Instead, Jethroe spent six years in the 1940s playing for the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro Leagues and later became the Braves' first black player.

Billy Klaus: The team's shortstop finished with a .274 batting average, 10 homers and 57 RBIs. He went on to an 11-year major league career with the Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies, Braves and Washington Senators.

Lu Marquez: The native of Puerto Rico hit .288 for the Sox and led the team with 80 RBIs and 38 stolen bases. He was in the majors for parts of the 1951 and 1954 seasons.

Billy Queen: The third baseman for the Sox finished with a .281 batting average to go with 18 homers and 77 RBIs, both the second-highest totals on the squad.

Billy Reed: After playing the previous season for the parent Braves, Reed hit .289 with five homers and 73 RBIs for the Sox in 1953.

Murray Wall: The team's third pitcher to finish in double figures in victories, Wall posted a 10-8 record in 25 starts. He later would spend four years in the majors.

- JOHN WAGNER



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