Week 30: Teams

In 2021 I decided to do a “Descendants’ Tree”, focused on all of the people descended from my 3rd great-grandparents Spencer and Martha Pease Arnold.  They were both born in Maine – Spencer in 1794 and Martha in 1800.  They married in Maine and had their children there before moving to Ohio in 1830.

To accomplish this project, I built a new tree on Ancestry named the “Spencer and Martha Descendants’ Tree.”  Building this tree involved a whole new set of skills for me – my previous research had all involved moving backward in time, from “more” available resources to “fewer” resources.  As I moved forward in time through the 19th century and into the 20th century to build this tree, new resources kept opening up for me.  By the time I was researching my most current distant cousins, I was finding them on Facebook and Linkedin.  I “drove” past their current residences on Google Maps.  The Google Maps camera truck never actually caught them out in their yards, but it could have.  It began to feel a little stalkerish.   This tree has over 1000 people in it – including 160 people who are my 4th cousins. These 4th cousins were born between 1906 and 1942; I’m apparently the youngest in this group, born in 1947.  You’ll see in a minute why this matters.

I haven’t totally abandoned this project, but I’ve put it on hold for while.  My goal, which was to identify as many living descendants of Spencer and Martha as I could and then hold a giant family reunion, was impeded by COVID.  I’ll get back to this project at some point.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing about this in response to the prompt “teams.”

I don’t have any ancestors who are associated with teams, so far as I have been able to determine.  There is no family lore about people playing for or supporting specific teams at any level.  But in the course of my descendants’ research project I came across my 4th cousin, George Elwood “Woody” English (1906-1997), who played professional baseball in the 1930s.  He didn’t have children, so far as I can tell, so there aren’t many people who will tell his story.  So here it is.

George Elwood “Woody” English is the 2nd great-grandson of Spencer and Martha’s oldest son, Joseph (furthest left).  I am the 2nd great-granddaughter of their 2nd son, Miles (two boxes to the right of Joseph).
Woody in his heyday
This is how Ancestry displays the relationship between Spencer and Woody.  Note:  I am NOT the father of Joseph Arnold, as this chart indicates.  Spencer is. To make this tree useful for my purposes in doing the descendants project, I had to make Spencer the home person on the tree and say that I was Spencer so that everyone would be identified in the tree by their relationship to Spencer and Martha.
To put this in context, here is my connection to Spencer and Martha. When I first discovered this relationship, I was confused.  How could I be a generational peer with someone who was born 40 years before me?  But then I looked closely at the dates of the successive generations in both trees.  The generations between Spencer and Woody moved much faster than mine – the average difference in age between the generations in his tree is 22 years, while the average difference in age between the generations in my tree is 30.6 years. That accounts for the difference.

Here’s what Find-A-Grave says about Woody:

He was an infielder making his debut as a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs on April 26, 1927. For twelve seasons he played with the Chicago Cubs (1927-36) and Brooklyn Dodgers (1937-38). In 1930, he was the Cubs’ highest-paid player at $12,000 and he was selected to the National League All-Star team in 1933. He finished his career with a record of 1356 hits, 801 runs scored, 32 home runs, 422 runs batted in, a .286 batting average, and a .957 fielding average.

Other sources add that he was captain of the Cubs for six years and was once tossed out of a World Series game and fined $200 for disagreeing with an umpire.  The Newark (Ohio) YMCA rededicated their Gymnasium in honor of him in 2001, naming it the Woody English Gymnasium. The gym features art of the baseball player by local artist Julie Ketner Barrett. YMCA administrator Alan Cecutti said the rededication was “a way to give back to the baseball legend.”  English Avenue, a short street in Newark, is named after Woody.

In 2008, Westerville Ohio resident Frank Cromer, produced a documentary titled “Buckeye Cubbie”, highlighting English’s life and career as a baseball player.  Here’s the link to a clip of that video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-h4UqsQhVo. In this clip, Woody (as a very old man – and a former shortstop) explains why the shortstop is the brains of a baseball team.  It’s worth watching.

In addition, his obituary says that he later spent two years with the Brooklyn Dodgers and five years as manager of the Grand Rapids Chicks, a women’s baseball league.  He led this team to the championship of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1953.   After leaving baseball, he returned to his hometown of Newark, Ohio, and was employed by the State Farm Insurance company as a night supervisor until his retirement in 1971.  His obituary does not indicate that he was married or had children, although some trees on Ancestry include undocumented family information.

Woody’s 1933 baseball card.

Woody’s younger brother, Paul Vernon English (1910-1944), always called Verne, also played baseball – one year in the minor leagues at Terre Haute, Indiana, in the IIILeague (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa) in 1935.  He died quite young – he was only 34 – and I haven’t been able to find the cause of his death.

This is Verne.  Source:  Find-A-Grave

So I celebrate my distant baseball-playing cousins.  Several members of my immediate family played Little League or high school baseball, and my daughter goes to minor league games whenever she can as she travels across the country for her job.  We have all enjoyed learning about the unexpected family connection with a pro team.

Author: iseekdeadpeopleblog

I am a retired high school history and government teacher. I've been doing genealogy research since I retired in 2012. I define what I do as "constructing a plausible narrative about the past." I don't claim to know everything about the ancestors whose stories I tell, but I try to imagine myself in their lives. I sometimes call it "creative non-fiction." I try to differentiate between what I know for sure and what I "think" I know.

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