Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Red Oak's Own....Jo-Jo White

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Red Oak's Own....Jo-Jo White

You find the most interesting things in old newspapers.  The other day I was clicking through some old issues of the Pittsburgh Press when I saw the words "Red Oak, Georgia".  I immediately zeroed in on the article because Red Oak is the name of the place where I grew up.  

The article was dated October 3, 1934, and said....

The little town of Red Oak, Georgia doesn't know it yet, but it isn't going to have any main street a week from now, for that winding red clay strip that runs from the general store to the depot, is going to be re-named Rue De La Jo-Jo White.


Well yes, I thought...why?  Who in the heck is Jo-Jo White, and why would the folks of Red Oak name a street after him?  For one thing as far back as the 1960s Red Oak didn't have a street named Main Street.  The main drag was Roosevelt Highway/State Route 29.  The general store....were they referring to Mr. Johnson's store that stood on the corner of Washington Road and Roosevelt Highway or was there a general store on down close to the old depot where Lee Plaza was built in the 1970s?  I know the approximate location of the old depot at Red Oak, but it moved at some point

The article continues with the journalist's answer to the why question:

Simply because Jo-Jo White, native son of Red Oak and now center fielder for the Detroit Tigers is going to be the rampaging dark horse for the 1934 World Series.  Jo-Jo of Red Oak is going to perform many remarkable feats in the series that starts this afternoon.   He is going to lam bast the living daylights off the ball.  He will make shoe-string catches, French fried catches, and catches a la Julienne.

He will steal first, second, third, and home.  He will be a pain in the neck, a thorn in the side, a fly in the ointment and an asp in the bosom to the Cards.

How do I know this?   How do I know that it will be Jo-Jo White and not Hank Greenberg or Billy Rogell or Leo Durocher or Pepper Martin again?   I know it because I got it from the same source I get many of my sterling predictions - from a vision.

Well, first of all it's a little thrilling for me to see my hometown which really wasn't much of a town....more of a delightful community mentioned in a Pittsburgh newspaper.   Second, I had to know more about this Jo-Jo White.

So, while the newspaper article continued discussing a "vision" can see the whole article here....I went off in another direction to find out more.

Jo-Jo White's full name was Joyner Clifford White, and he was born in Red Oak, Georgia on June 1, 1909.  Immediately I decided his nickname...Jo-Jo....had to come from his first name, right?  I was wrong.  He earned the nickname because of the way he pronounced the word "Georgia".


So far I've determined Jo-Jo White played for the Carrollton Frogs in 1928....a minor league team in the Georgia-Alabama league before breaking into the major leagues.

He played with the Detroit Tigers during the 1934 and 1935 seasons when the team won back to back games of the 1934 World Series.  In 1935, he would play in five games of the World Series.  

Gee, I guess the Pittsburgh Press reporter's vision was accurate.

During his time with the Detroit Tigers, Jo-Jo White's roommate was Hank Greenberg who wrote in his autobiography that for five years he and Jo-Jo White re-fought the Civil War every night.  White's first comment to Greenberg had to do with the fact he was surprised to find out a Jew such as Greenberg didn't have horns.  The two men were soon fast friends.  

Unfortunately, White's time with the Tigers was short-lived.  Greenberg reports in his book that following a drunken incident with a hat belonging to the Tiger's manager, Del Barker was destroyed White was traded to the Seattle Rainiers.

An article from Sportspress Northwest dated last year shows a few pictures including this one with a caption that states..."Jo-Jo White teaching Edo Vanni the right way to perform a hook slide.   Sixty-five years later Vanni would credit White with all he needed to know to run the bases well."

The article also advises Jo-Jo White learned base stealing from another famous Georgia baseball player.....Ty Cobb, and.....

"White, who played with the Rainiers from 1939-1942, and again from 1946 to 1948, became an igniter for the club, spraying line drives to all fields and commandeering the base paths with skilled abandon."

Jo-Jo White was able to return to the majors during World War II.  In 1943, he began playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, and in 1944 was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

White played his final game on September 30, 1944, and for several years coached with various teams including the Detroit Tigers.....and even coached in Atlanta with the Braves for a year. 

The book Stand and Deliver:  A History of Pinch-Hitting by Paul Votano says, "White was involved in a curious event in 1960, while a coach for the Cleveland Indians.  General Manager, Frank "Trader" Lane swapped his manager, Joe Gordon, to the Tigers for their manager at the time, Jimmy Dykes.  Without a skipper for the game, the Indians had Jo-Jo White run the team, and he won his only game as a big leaguer manager."

Jo-Jo White passed away on October 9, 1986 while living in Tacoma, Washington....far away from his Red Oak, Georgia roots.  Eleven years later he was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.  

Jo-Jo White was father of Mike White……Joyner Michael White…..who played professional ball in the 1960s

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