Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Real-Life Roy Hobbs

The famous scoreboard at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field,
featuring the Bulova clock at the top, above the Schaefer Beer sign. Posted by Hello
A Real-Life Roy Hobbs

Carvel William "Bama" Rowell played six seasons in the big leagues, hitting just 19 homers and batting .275. Normally, a player with numbers like that might not be remembered, but Rowell was involved in one of the most bizarre plays in baseball history on May 30, 1946, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.
Rowell, born in Citronelle, Alabama, was an excellent athlete who attended Louisiana State University on a football scholarship, and signed his first baseball contract in 1935. An outfielder when he first arrived in the majors, Rowell made his big league debut with the Boston Braves on September 4, 1939, playing under manager Casey Stengel. As a rookie in 1940, Rowell played second base and batted .305 with 58 RBI in 130 games. After the 1941 season, Rowell enlisted in the Army, serving more than three years in World War II.
When he returned in 1946, Rowell was moved back to the outfield by Braves manager Billy Southworth. On May 30, Rowell and the Braves were in Flatbush facing the Dodgers in a Saturday afternoon doubleheader. In the second inning of the second game, facing Hank Behrman, a Brooklyn-native, Rowell launched a high fly ball to right field that struck the famous Bulova Clock that stood atop the scoreboard. Bama's blast shattered the face of the clock, raining glass down on Dodgers right fielder Dixie Walker. The ball was in play, and Rowell ended up on second base with a double that kept a Boston seven-run rally alive. The clock however, was not alive. It stopped working exactly one hour after the ball's impact, which occurred at 4:25 p.m.
The Bulova Clock Company had promised a free watch to anyone who hit the clock, but Rowell, for some reason, didn't receive it during his playing days. More than 40 years later, in 1987, on "Bama Rowell Day" in Citronelle, Rowell received his wristwatch from Bulova.
Rowell's long drive off the clock at Ebbets Field inspired the scene in Bernard Malamud's 1952 novel The Natural, in which Roy Hobbs belts a home run off the light tower, which rains glass all over the diamond. Malamud was a Brooklyn-native and a Dodgers fan. Bama Rowell died on August 16, 1993, in Citronelle.

2 comments:

John said...

Great story.

Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of Bama Rowell or the clock incident until watching The Natural tonight on AMC. They cut into the movie with a little subtitle about it, and this was very interesting.