Played with Hack Wilson, Lefty Grove, Doc Cramer and Jimmy Dykes
Historical photos and painstakingly collected statistics and records are about all we have to verify what happened in the Class D, Blue Ridge League where the Martinsburg Blue Sox entertained their fans with future Major Leaguers like Hack Wilson, Lefty Grove, Jimmy Dykes and “Doc” Cramer.
While the Blue Sox were busy winning a string of league championships from 1915 through the 1930 season, there was one player who remained a constant for 12 seasons with the team.
With Wilson, Grove, Dykes and Cramer quickly moving upward to the big leagues, outfielder George “Reggie” Rawlings remained in Martinsburg and helped the legendary Blue Sox usually get the better of league members Hagerstown, Waynesboro (Pa.), Hanover, Frederick, and Chambersburg.
Rawlings was on hand for the first Blue Ridge season the Blue Sox saw in 1915 when they played in the west end of town at Rosemont Field with its unpainted wooden bleachers . William “Country” Morris was the guiding force behind the first Blue Sox team.
And with Rawlings batting a crisp .325 in his 71 games, the Blue Sox won that first pennant the league handed out.
Staying in Martinsburg with the ever-revolving Blue Sox team, Rawlings was becoming a real fan favorite by the middle of the 1916 campaign, his second season. He batted .279 (his second lowest figure in his dozen years with the team) but hit seven homers and scored 62 runs in 102 games.
While much of Europe was still embroiled in World War I and America feared it would soon become involved in the widespread conflict, Rawlings was still a fixture in the Blue Sox outfield in 1917, a season where he finished with a .303 average, had 10 homers and 21 doubles.
Rawlings was in the service after America entered the world conflict and missed the next two seasons.
When he returned in 1920, he was as popular as ever and drew a few more admirers his way with another .303 batting average, nine homers and 61 RBIs in 98 games.
The 1921 Blue Sox season found Rawlings in unfamiliar territory. The Martinsburg manager, Joe Ward, was fired after only four games and Country Morris persuaded Rawlings to manage the team for the remaining 91 games of the summer.
The Frederick Hustlers won the pennant by a few games over the second-place Blue Sox.
Not only did Rawlings get forced into managerial duty but just after the season was completed he married Harriet Beatrice Westenhaver, the sister of one of his teammates with the Blue Sox.
Rawlings was determined to stay in Martinsburg and raise a family there.
With his robust offensive production in his five seasons at Rosemont Field, Rawlings was entertaining offers to move elsewhere to play.
At least twice, he signed contracts for more money in other towns, but on both occasions quickly returned to Martinsburg to rejoin his wife and family.
His leaning toward Martinsburg caused a lingering controversy just prior to the 1922 season. “Country” Morris had purchased the Waynesboro team and signed Rawlings to play for him.
Homesick and missing his family ties, Rawlings pleaded with Morris to trade him back to the Blue Sox before the 1922 season got underway. Morris relented and made the trade for a player he later released.
Joining Rawlings on the 1922 team was Lewis “Hack” Wilson, a short and stocky outfielder whose 5-foot-5, 200-pound dimensions belied his prodigious power.
Wilson and Rawlings literally destroyed Blue Ridge League pitching.
The hometown slugger Rawlings led the league with a .371 average and did the same with his 108 RBIs in only 95 games. While Hack was slugging 30 homers, Reggie clubbed 26 himself.
Wilson quickly became a fixture in the big leagues where he was joined by Hall of Famer of the future, Lefty Grove, who had been sensational in the Blue Ridge circuit as a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher.
It was more of the same offensive production for Rawlings in 1923 (where he hit .376 with 25 homers and 104 runs scored) and 1924 (where he had his best-ever season with a .379 batting mark as well as 21 home runs).
It was in 1925 that he almost found the resolve to join Portland in the Pacific Coast League. After signing a contract in the winter, he changed his mind about moving and asked to be released so he could remain in Martinsburg.
The Blue Sox won pennants in three consecutive seasons starting in 1922, when Rawlings and Wilson almost took turns destroying league hurlers.
He was easily the most popular sports figure in Martinsburg and dozens of fans showed up in the steep wooden bleachers just to see what he might do that afternoon.
In the next four seasons, Rawlings, who would turn 37 in 1928, showed offensive figures that saw him with batting averages of .335, .320, .351, and .258.
When the Philadelphia Athletics of owner-manager Connie Mack bought the Blue Sox prior to the 1929 season, Rawlings was released and went over to Hagerstown to play for the independent Hagerstown Hubs. As if to prove to the Athletics that he could still handle the bat, Rawlings hit .321, scored 77 runs and hit 11 homers as the Hubs won the Blue Ridge League pennant.
At age 38, he retired from professional baseball. He had spent 12 years with the Blue Sox and one with Hagerstown.
Rawlings went to work at the Dunn Woolen Mill in Martinsburg. In 1954, he passed away, a victim of tuberculosis, and is buried alongside his wife in Rosedale Cemetery in Martinsburg.
He had stayed in Martinsburg with his family. Numerous professional baseball people from players to scouts to administrative personnel felt he had the ability to be a productive big league performer if he had followed the path taken by Wilson, Grove, Dykes and Cramer.
But he stayed in Martinsburg with his wife and family achieving a lifetime batting average of .330 with 183 homers and 887 runs scored.