Native Tennessean and major league pitching star John Andrew Beazley Jr. did not consider playing professional baseball until his late teens. Unlike many young boys who dreamed of one day playing in the major leagues, Johnny had an ambition to become a boxer. The tragic death of Johnny's younger brother, however, was to change the course of his life.
It is believed that the game of baseball was first introduced to Nashville by Union troops who brought their northern game south in the early years of the Civil War. Much separated North and South during the great War Between the States, but baseball grew in popularity, and by the time the fighting was over, the sport was being declared America's "national pastime." It was a game to be played and enjoyed by all.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game sheet music, New York, New York, 1908
Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection
Baseball in Tennessee, and in the nation at large, was not without its challenges. The United States' involvement in World War I and World War II resulted in the loss of many elite players, including Johnny Beazley, who sacrificed their careers in order to serve in the armed forces. Despite this, the major leagues continued to play for the duration of the wars. The lack of male players during World War II also brought about the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954).
Beazley was a major player during a time of growing pains and change within the sport. The Negro Leagues included some of the best players in the country, yet African-Americans were excluded from participating in exclusively white professional baseball. Attempts to integrate these players and the eventual crossing of the color line caused much division within the major leagues.
The John Andrew Beazley Papers are housed at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. They offer baseball researchers and fans alike a rare opportunity to follow the brief career of a major league player, local business owner, and civic leader.