Leaguer of the Month
Will "Gabie" Owens
Born: Nov. 14, 1901 in Indianapolis, IN
Died: May 5, 1999
Ht:5'-10", Wt: 175
Batted right and threw right.
Position: shortstop, second base, third base
Teams: Indianapolis ABCs, Memphis Red Sox, Detroit Stars, Chicago
American Giants, Dayton Marcos, Cleveland Elites, Cleveland Hornets,
Harrisburg Giants, Brooklyn Royal Giants, Birmingham Black Barons
to slave parents, Will Owen lived to the ripe old age of 98 and
was the last surviving member of the Eastern Colored League (Brooklyn
Royal Giants 1937).
grew up at the turn of the 20th century in Indianapolis, and was
a fan of the local ABCs named for the American Brewing Company.
It was at the ABC games that Owen fell in love with baseball and
its superstar Oscar Charleston.
could hear the fans," remembered Owens. 'Oscar, Oscar, Oscar!
Owens started as a catcher on the sandlots with an integrated
team, and, hard as it is to believe, played without a mask.
"I never got hit in the face," explained Ownes. "I
would always put my glove right up to my face. I could judge the
ball, and when a guy would strike at the ball, my glove would
be right over my face."
playing with some local team, Owens was discovered by the Washington
D.C. Potomacs in 1923. After a short stint with the Chicago American
Giants, Owens' baseball dream came true when he was signed by
his hometown ABCs.
Owens was a slick-fielding shortstop, a slap hitter and fine bunter.
He usually batted in the .270 range.
most fine shortstops, Owens had his share of favorite fielding
plays. He once went high into the air to rob Turkey Stearnes of
a hit, after which his manager, Bingo DeMoss, said it was one
of the greatest plays he'd ever seen.
it was a triple play that Owens was most proud of. Here's Owens
"There were three men on base and the score was--I think
we had 'em 8-6. A guy named Cooper hit a line drive to me and
I had to jump way up and I snared the ball -- I was scared when
I did come down that the ball was gonna come out of my glove --
and I throwed the ball to second, and from second I threw the
ball to first.That made the triple play! That was one of the greatest
plays I ever made."
one season with the ABCs, Owens had short stints with several
teams, then came back to the ABCs in 1932. The new manager, Candy
Jim Taylor, criticized Owens after he made a few errors, and Owens
quit the team. After one last season with the Detroit Stars, Owens
retired from baseball for good.
quit school in the 6th grade (something he regretted years later),
and spent much of his freetime in an Indianapolis pool hall, so
it was no surprise to his friends that he became a professional
pool player after retiring from baseball. Owens played all over
the country, and once played a match against Minnesota Fats.
also was an accomplished carpenter and general handyman.
1996, Owens was given an honorary GED from an Indianapolis high
I'd like to give a special thanks to Indianapolis ABCs researcher
Paul Debono for arranging my interview with Will Owens in 1993.
I highly recommend his book on the ABCs.
Click here to order this book.
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