On Mixing Golf and Baseball

Ransom Jackson never golfed with the big boys but columnist Loran Smith writes, “If he had joined the PGA Tour, he likely would have been a very successful professional golfer.”

Ransom started playing golf when he was 12. “Dad was an outstanding golfer and a member of the Little Rock Country Club,” he writes in Handsome Ransom Jackson: Accidental Big Leaguer. “I spent summers on the fairways there, playing from eight o’clock in the morning until six at night.”

Golf great Sam Snead gives tips to Ransom, left, and Cub teammate Hank Sauer, right, at a golf tournament in Chicago in 1951. Ransom Jackson Collection

Golf great Sam Snead gives tips to Ransom, left, and Cub teammate Hank Sauer, right, at a golf tournament in Chicago in 1951. Ransom Jackson Collection

Ransom’s lowest handicap was two, the highest 12. “When I gave up golf at age 82, my handicap was 10.”

Ransom played on some of the world’s most beautiful golf courses, including the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, where he shot 80 for the par 72 course.

He’ll return to Augusta, Georgia, Saturday, August 13, 2016, from 1-3 p.m. to sign copies of his book at the Augusta Museum of History. The book sells for $34.

Ransom couldn’t help but smile at the recent hullabaloo over New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes playing golf while recovering from a leg injury. Mets Tell Injured Yoenis Cespedes To Cool It With The Golfing.

“Some things never change,” Ransom says.

When Ransom starred for the Chicago Cubs in the 1950s, baseball teams generally frowned on players golfing. Swinging a golf club and bat are polar opposites, the argument went, and golf messes up a hitter’s natural swing.

Teams wanting to pressure a player publicly often used hometown sportswriters as messengers.

Ransom’s batting average dropped 43 points (.275 to .232) from 1951 to 1952, making him a perfect target for those believing golf and baseball don’t mix.

One writer concluded his woes in 1952 resulted from being “really bitten by this golf bug” and playing “whenever an opportunity presented itself.”

When Ransom rebounded with a .285 average in 1953, the same writer explained, “Randy tossed his golf clubs into the attic, and concentrated on baseball.”

Kevin Millar, co-host of Intentional Talk on MLB Network, tweeted this photo recently after a round of golf with Yoenis Cespedes, star outfielder for the New York Mets.

Kevin Millar, co-host of Intentional Talk on MLB Network, tweeted this photo recently after a round of golf with Yoenis Cespedes, star outfielder for the New York Mets.

As Ransom points out in Accidental Big Leaguer, the facts are slightly different. “I golfed several times at spring training on Catalina Island but rarely during the regular season.”

Ransom shot three holes-in-one, all after he retired from baseball. “What’s amusing about this golf-and-baseball-don’t-mix stuff is that most of the charity golf tournaments I competed in after leaving baseball featured ex-ballplayers. Maybe we were making up for the golfing we missed playing baseball.”

Ransom recalls one such event in 1952, sponsored by an Oklahoma oil tycoon. Approximately 30 baseball players participated, including Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees. At a party afterwards, the oil man asked if any of them would be interested in hunting for polar bear in Alaska.

“I’ve got my own plane and all of the equipment needed,” he said. “We could fly up to Alaska and return in about five days.”

Everybody got excited thinking about a polar bear rug in front of the fireplace.

“Do you know how to hunt polar bear?” he asked.

Nobody had a clue, of course.

“You go out on a frozen lake, cut a hole in the ice about eight feet in diameter, open a can of peas and spread them all around the hole,” he explained. “When the polar bear comes up to take a pea, you kick him in the ice hole.”

In Accidental Big Leaguer, Ransom writes: “Mickey was standing next to me and laughed so hard, I thought he was going to fall down. By the way, we never got a chance to see if peas worked.”

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