Buck Jordan, Zeb Eaton also made Majors

Published 9:58 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

We’ve found two more. Two Cooleemee boys also made it to the Major Leagues. Since Whit Merrifield was called up by the Kansas City Royals in May, we’ve been scouting out any other Davie boys who played big time baseball. Last week we documented Farmington native Thomas “Bun” Seats.

Add to the list: Baxter Byerly “Buck” Jordan and Zebulon Vance “Zeb” Eaton.

Cooleemee has always been a hotbed of baseball, and these two native sons made it all the way.

Several people called after last week’s appeal for information about Major Leaguers with local roots.

“Buck” Jordan (1907-1993) was a first baseman who played for the New York Giants (1927–1929), Washington Senators (1931), Boston Braves (1932–1937), Cincinnati Reds (1937-1938) and Philadelphia Phillies (1938).

In a 10-season career, Jordan was a .299 hitter with 17 home runs and 281 RBI in 811 games played.

A baseball old timers website notes, “After playing in part of three seasons with the Giants and Senators, he became a regular with the Boston Braves in 1933 as he twice topped .300, with a career-high .323 in 1936. After that he averaged .290 in the next three seasons, that included stints with the Reds and Phillies. Twice he collected eight hits in a doubleheader, for the Braves in 1935 and with the Phillies in 1938.”

Jordan retired to Salisbury and died at age 86. He was a carpenter and farmer.

George Jordan of Cooleemee called last week with the tip about his “Uncle Bax.” Unlike today’s Major Leaguers, his uncle didn’t make a fortune playing baseball.

“Back then, there wasn’t any big bucks.”

As for Zeb Eaton (1920-1989), he was nicknamed “Red,” and pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 1944 and 1945. He played in six games for the Tigers in 1944 with no decisions and a 5.74 earned run average. In 1945, he played in 17 games and had a record of 4–2 with an ERA of 4.05. Eaton also contributed as a hitter in 1945, with two home runs, 10 RBIs, and a double in 32 at bats. Eaton’s last major league appearance came as a pinch hitter in Game 1 of the 1945 World Series. He pinch hit for pitcher Al Benton and was struck out by Cubs pitcher Hank Borowy.

He may have struck out, but he still earned a World Series ring. Steve Laymon sent us a picture of the ring.

He retired to Buffalo, N.Y.

“He got hit in the head by a pitch, and that ended his career,” George Jordan recalled. “He would come home. He was a real good hitter. He cleared that fence in Cooleemee there where the school is like it was nothing. I think it was 365 (feet) in left and 345 in right and 329 in center.

That brings the number to four Davie boys who made it to the majors. Have we missed anybody?

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It wasn’t the best hamburger ever — that designation is still held by a Colorado Springs, CO, eatery — but it was right there in my top three personal favorites. “The Elvis” burger, served at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint in downtown Roanoke, Va., last week, was wonderful. The burger was slathered with peanut butter and topped with bacon. I wanted to try several other specialty burgers, but I had to save room for a fried Oreo.

Jack Brown’s is a guy kind of place. Bras of all colors and sizes were hanging from a wagon wheel chandelier. Beer is served on tap through the grill of an old truck.

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Coming home, I veered off the highway at Madison to see my old haunts from 35 years ago. I saw the towering red oak tree I planted — then knee high — to honor my firstborn. I drove through downtown and stopped at Bob’s Restaurant and inquired about the health of my old friends. When son Paul was 2, I took a couple of candles with him to breakfast at Bob’s. The waitresses sang “Happy Birthday” to a delighted little boy. He makes birthday pancakes now for his girls.

– Dwight Sparks