Frank Anderson (1882-1966)

From BR Bullpen

Frank Buttner Anderson, Sr.

Biographical Information[edit]

Frank Anderson was the long-time baseball coach at Oglethorpe University, from 1916 to 1944, who turned the small college into a baseball powerhouse for a time. The Stormy Petrels won two Southern intercollegiate championships during his tenure and the baseball field at Oglethorpe is named Anderson Field in his honor.

He grew up in Douglasville, GA where he played high school baseball around the turn of the 20th century and enrolled at the University of Georgia in 1900. There he played second base on the varsity squad for three years and was also team captain. He was the All-Southern second baseman in 1903 and 1904. An outstanding athlete, he set a collegiate record for the 440-yard dash which stood for 30 years. On April 26, 1903, he hit a 9th-inning 2-run homer to tie a game against Georgia Tech, a hit out of a boys' novel that made him a celebrity in the state.

After graduating from college, he began teaching mathematics in various high schools around Atlanta, GA, and coaching their baseball teams as well. He won a state championship with the University School for Boys at Stone Mountain, GA in his first year and was on his way to becoming a coaching legend. He was as famous for the performance of his teams as for his eye for talent. Over the years, he would recruit and teach a number of future major league ballplayers, starting with future minor league P Paul Stowers who played for him at the Robert E. Lee Institute in 1906 and 1907. Anderson had reputedly discovered Stowers while he was working guarding convicts on a chain gang; another of his protégés, Jay Partridge was first seen by him pulling a plow in the field. The legend has it that coach Anderson could distinguish baseball ability in a player even under such unlikely circumstances. Coaching at Gordon Military Institute in Barnesville, GA, he discovered sidearming pitcher Brad Hogg. By 1909, he was offered a job coaching at his alma mater, the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. He won consecutive Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships there in 1911 and 1912.

However, Anderson decided to relocate to Atlanta after that early taste of success, finding a job at Commercial High School. It was immediately after that the job which would define his life materialized. Educator Thornwell Jacobs decided at that time to "resurrect" Oglethorpe University, a school that had existed in Milledgeville, GA from 1835 until the Civil War. Jacobs reopened the University on Peachtree Road in Atlanta in 1916 and hired Anderson to be his athletic director, in addition to teaching mathematics and serving as the school's registrar. The University started playing baseball in 1917, and began playing other colleges from the area with a high degree of success. On the college's first-ever team was Al "Red" Wingo of Norcross, GA, a future major leaguer. Other future professional players from these early teams included Lucas Turk and Roy Carlyle. The team won a Southern intercollegiate championship in 1924, led by Partridge and Lefty Willis. By the mid-1920s, Anderson's teams were so strong that he would regularly schedule games against professional teams, including the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association and service teams from Fort Benning, GA. In 1930, Oglethorpe won a second Southern championship, the year in which future Hall of Famer Luke Appling made his debut as a player with the team; he would soon sign with the Crackers as a professional. In 1931, the strongest schools in the area - including Oglethorpe - formed the Dixie League, a six-team baseball conference that also included Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, Mercer University and Auburn University. Oglethorpe stood out by being a much smaller school than its competitors - its total student enrollment was a few hundred - but it was just as competitive as its bigger rivals.

The apex of Anderson's life as a college coach came on March 31, 1933, when his team played the major league St. Louis Cardinals in an exhibition game as the Cards were making their way home from spring training for the start of the regular season. Oglethorpe lost the game, 4-0, but it was quite an achievement for the small school to even stage such a game. As the Great Depression progressed however, it would become more difficult to maintain a competitive schedule, with travel becoming more difficult. As a result, the team played against the Atlanta Penitentiary on a regular basis just to get some games in. One of the last top athletes to play under coach Anderson was Greek George, during that period. In 1944, the baseball program was suspended because of World War II.

Anderson retired as a coach but continued to follow baseball with interest in later years. He was present at the baseball field's dedication in his name in 1963, and died in 1966. He and his wife Lorena are buried in Albany, GA. He was posthumously named to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Paul Hudson: "Frank Anderson: The Dean of Southern Baseball Coaches, 1916-1944", in Ken Fenster and Wynn Montgomery, eds: Baseball in the Peach State, The National Pastime, SABR, Volume 40 (2010), pp. 8-17.