HUGHEY TATE was the greatest baseball player that ever lived — hitting 10,000 home runs and never making an out in 50 years on the diamond.
OK, that’s not true of course. But that’s the way Hughey would have told it before bursting into laughter.
Tate, a Greenville man who was as good at spinning a yarn as well as he was in hitting home runs, will be inducted posthumously into the Bedford County (Pa.) Hall of Fame Saturday. Some of his relatives from this area will attend the ceremonies.
He was an extremely good player and prodigious home-run hitter, but just as importantly he was one of the real characters who cropped up in sports in the “days before the big money.”
In fact, his calling card read: “I am a great bull------r myself, but I also enjoy listening to an expert — carry on!”
Hughey was born May 19, 1880, and died Aug. 7, 1956. But in the 76 years on Earth, he left a legacy of terrific sports prowess.
He honed his baseball skills at Everett High School in Bedford County. In one game against Saxton, he had three hits in four at-bats, including a home run that a local paper reported was the longest ever hit at the Everett field.
Hughey played in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Senators franchises. He made it to the Major Leagues in September 2005 with the Senators.
While only a short time in the bigs, playing four games, he made a solid showing by playing errorless ball in left field, while batting .308 and stealing a base.
He also played professional ball in Cumberland, Md., and later was a batmaker for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Hughey moved to Green-ville, Pa., where he became a legendary home-run hitter in independent leagues.
He played for a team in Youngstown, Ohio, that competed against teams from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
In 1911, while playing independent ball during the “dead ball era” he hit 27 homers. At that time in the Major Leagues, the American League home-run leader was Frank “Home Run” Baker of Philadelphia, who hit only 9 homers the entire season.
One of the true stories regarding his home-run prowess came from the early 1900s in Youngstown. Many ballparks in the area had a sign in the outfield advertising Bull Durham Tobacco. Any player hitting a homer off the sign would win $50 from the company. He did it so often, the company took down the signs.
Hughey’s status as a ball player earned him a tremendous honor in 1951. He was chosen to throw out the first ball at Greenville’s first-ever Little League game and also headed the parade through the town.
He and his wife Sadie, whom he married in October 1905, had three children. Right after they had his third child in 1912, the doctor who delivered his daughter Ginny was attending a game Hughey played in. After asking how much he owed the doctor, the medical man replied: “Just hit me a home run and that will be my payment.”
Hughey delivered with a long blast. On the tombstone of Ginny it refers to her as the “World’s First Homerun Baby.”
He had a long career as a sign-maker and was a constant companion of the “movers and shakers” in the Greenville area.
He wrote a book of humorous tales entitled “The Wanderings of a Bush Leaguer or the Biggest Liar on Earth.”
When Hughey died in 1956, a Youngstown sports writer wrote of his passing and called him the “original tape measure walloper from Greenville, Pa.”
Besides hitting whopping homeruns, he could also tell a few whoppers as well!
Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.