Frank pitching for McKell
Since I was a kid, I've loved baseball. I played the sport throughout grade school, junior high, and high school. And, even in my middle age, I played in the local Ohio Valley League. Like most every youngster, I dreamed of playing professional ball. As I got older I found out one of my relatives had a brief stint in the minors. That drew my undivided attention. With the help of a relative or two and the Internet, I found out he was quite an influential figure in Florida sports history.
James Frank Callihan (known to everyone as “Frank”) was born December 22, 1933 to George P. and Sophia Mae Callihan in South Shore. George was my great-uncle, my grandpa Martin Leslie "Happy" Callihan's brother. My mother was the Happy's daughter.
Six foot five, 215 pound Frank Callihan (known as “Frank”) became a “strong-armed,” left-handed pitcher for McKell High School. He was a standout in baseball, and the talented athlete also played on the basketball and football teams. Frank was selected to play with the Class A Senior All-Stars in a charity basketball game at Grant Gym, but he declined to participate in the game since he wanted to preserve his high school baseball eligibility. He impressed everyone his last two years in high school.
In July 1952, Frank was signed to a contract by Hank Mazza, southeastern representative of the St. Louis Browns. He received a bonus of an undisclosed amount at the time. Mazza said the Browns had matched offers by the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs. Callihan was a Rule 5, Draft B selection.
Frank was scheduled to be sent to Aberdeen South Dakota in Class C ball (the Aberdeen Pheasants) and probably optioned out to Independence Missouri in Class D ball to get experience.
As Frank's career progressed, he pitched for the 1953 Pine Bluff (Arkansas) Judges of the Cotton State League. That season, the 19-year-old had a record of 12 wins and 11 losses with an ERA of 4.77. He started 23 games and pitched 156.2 innings.
The Class C Judges finished 3rd in the league that year with a record of 65-60 – 14 games behind the Meridian Millers. The Judges lost in 1st round of the playoffs.
The Pine Bluff Judges joined the Cotton States League in 1930 and promptly won the league championship that season. When the league folded after the 1932 season, so did the team. However, the Waco Cubs of the Dixie League moved to town the following season and took on the Judges name. They remained in the East Dixie League the following season and then joined the reformed Cotton States League in 1936.
The team was inactive between 1941–1947 during World War II but rejoined the league for the 1948 season. In 1955, they moved to Meridian, Mississippi and became the Meridian Millers.
Frank in Spring Training
Frank Lucchesi managed the Pine Bluff Judges during the 1953 and 1954 seasons. He eventually became the manager of three Major League teams: the Philadelphia Phillies (1970–72), Texas Rangers (1975–77) and Chicago Cubs (1987 as interim manager), posting a career win–loss record of 316–399 (.442).
In 1953 Lucchesi led the Pine Bluff Judges to 65-60 record, leading a team that lacked in talent to a winning record. Lucchesi was able to improve on the poor pitching and hitting of 1952, flipping the Judges to the top half of the league in both.
Frank Lucchesi would leave Pine Bluff after the 1954 season. While Frank Lucchesi would only spend part of two seasons in Pine Bluff, he took a piece of Pine Bluff along with him on his journey: his wife, who was a Pine Bluff native.
Frank Callihan never became a Major League star, but instead, he became a legend at Jacksonville, Florida's Bolles High School – a college preparatory and boarding school in Jacksonville – as a coach and football announcer. He was the voice of the Bulldogs for many years, broadcasting their football games on radio.
Frank also coached Major League standout Chipper Jones at the Bolles School where Chipper was a two-way player. He chalked up a 6-3 record with 87 strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA as a pitcher while hitting a .391 batting average with seven home runs, earning First Team All-State honors.
In 1989, Jones played football and baseball, winning First Team All-State honors in both sports and winning a state championship in baseball. He also notched the Tournament MVP honors and held an 11-1 pitching record with a 0.81 ERA in 84 innings pitched, and 107 strikeouts. In his senior year, the Bulldogs were the state-runner up while Jones compiled a 7-3 record with a 1.00 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 79 innings on the mound, while hitting .488 with 14 stolen bases.
Jones won the Gatorade Circle of Champions Florida Baseball Player of the Year, Regional Baseball Player of the Year and Runner-up National Player of the Year. He was the first pick of the 1990 Major League Baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves.
Chipper spoke very highly of his association with Frank Callihan. Jones led his Braves franchise to its lone World Series title in 1995, and represented it eight times in the MLB All-Star Game.
A first-ballot Major League Hall of Famer in 2018, Braves star Larry “Chipper” Jones clubbed 468 homers, batted over .300, and got on-base at a .401 clip. The Braves legend tallied the 10th-highest percentage in balloting history.
Frank Callihan died May 10, 2010, in Jacksonville, Florida. He was preceded in death by his four siblings – Helen, Paul, Ruth, and Clyde. He was survived by "E" Callihan, his wife of 45 years; his son, John; his daughter, Dana Lawrence; his daughter-in-law Lendy Callihan; his son-in-law Roy Lawrence; four grandchildren: Kalen and Tyler Callihan, and Sam and Charlie Lawrence; and his sister-in-law Doris Callihan. He was buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.
Upon Frank Callihan's passing, the Jacksonville paper wrote this shining tribute ...
“Frank Callihan will always have a place in Jacksonville high school sports history. The longtime Bolles faculty member died Monday morning following a stroke. He was 76.
“It was Callihan, who in 1989 as Bolles’ athletic director, hired then-Lee High football coach Corky Rogers to take over the school’s program. Nine state championships later, the Bulldogs are the most successful football powerhouse in Florida with Rogers still at the helm. No school in Florida can match Bolles’ 10 state titles.
“'Frank was the person who hired me,' Rogers said. 'Even when his health wasn’t the best, he never had a down day. He was a very intelligent man. A kind, humble, Christian man. I never heard anyone say a negative thing about him. There have been a couple of people that left us recently that helped Bolles become what it is today. Frank is one of those people.'
“We lost a good Bulldog,” Bolles president and head of the school John E. Trainer Jr. said in a statement. 'The voice of Bolles football is gone.'
“Bringing Rogers to Bolles was Callihan’s most notable contribution to the school, but certainly not his only one. Callihan served as the play-by-play radio announcer for Bolles’ football team for 34 years, covering the school’s Class 2B state championship season last fall.
“'His radio broadcasts were always very special for us,' Rogers said.
“Callihan was a part of one of Bolles' best football traditions, teaming with color analyst Somers Randolph from 1989-2004. Randolph died in 2006 at the age of 72.
“In his 31 years at Bolles, Callihan also served as a social studies teacher, and helped coach a variety of sports.
“He came to the school in 1966, working as a dorm parent and part-time coach. In 1970, he became a full-time teacher at the school. He retired from teaching in 1997. Callihan's love for Bolles inspired him to write a book Gimme a B, chronicling his time at the school.”
Somehow, though we were relatives, I never got to know Frank Callihan. We did live a great distance apart. That probably made it difficult to visit. I may have had the pleasure of meeting him at a family funeral or the like, yet I truly don't remember. In fact, no one in the family ever shared his legacy with me. It seems that following a recent suggestion from my niece Cindy to explore his life has led me to a beautiful awareness of a truly fine man … a talented baseball player, but so much more. Much thanks to another relative, James Bergman of Fort Wayne, Indiana, for his valued assistance in this project.
Jiggs, Clyde, Helen, and Frank Callihan
Note – If you don't know much about the Browns, there was a day when there were two teams in St. Louis. And while the Cardinals were a mainstay and became one of the most successful franchises in Major League history, the Browns … not so much. The Browns existed from 1902-1953 in the American League and managed just 11 winning seasons over that span. They lost more than 100 games eight times, finishing dead last in the AL 10 times.
In 1951, Bill Veeck, the colorful former owner of the Cleveland Indians, purchased the Browns from Bill DeWitt. In St. Louis, Veeck extended the promotions and wild antics that had made him famous and loved by many and loathed by many others.
His most notorious stunt in St. Louis came on August 19, 1951, when he ordered Browns manager, Zack Taylor to send Eddie Gaedel, a 3-foot 7-inch, 65-pound midget, to bat as a pinch hitter. When Gaedel stepped to the plate he was wearing a Browns child's uniform with the number 1⁄8. With no strike zone to speak of, Gaedel walked on four straight pitches, as he was ordered not to swing at any pitch.
The stunt infuriated American League President Will Harridge, who voided Gaedel's contract the next day. Veeck also promoted another publicity stunt in which the Browns handed out placards – reading take, swing, bunt, etc. – to fans and allowed them to make managerial decisions for a day. Manager Zack Taylor dutifully surveyed the fans' advice and relayed the sign accordingly. The Browns won the game against the Philadelphia Athletics, whose venerable owner Connie Mack took part in the "Grandstand Managers" voting (against his own team).
But, after all of those losses and dwindling crowds, the Browns packed up and moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. But, they kept their minor league affiliate, the Aberdeen South Dakota Pheasants.
The Orioles would soon trade away most of the remaining talent from the Veeck era (including Sievers, Wertz, Turley, and Larsen), and it would be several years before the franchise finally began to win.
“Upon hearing about the local Pine Bluff team and the 'many things of prowess of the Pine Bluff nine,' the sporting men of the Cairo, Illinois baseball team arranged a game with Mr. Wiley Jones. Jones being so confident in his local team not only agreed to the baseball game in Pine Bluff, but also bet all the money they could cover and agreed to give the Cairo baseball club the whole gate receipts if they won.
“One thing Mr. Wiley Jones did not know was that the Cairo sporting men were 'wise in their generation.' The Cairo club went out and collected professional players far and wide. They went to St. Louis and rented the National League Browns battery of Bill Kissinger and Klondike Douglass from St. Louis manager Chris Von Der Ahe.
“Armed with a team good enough for any company, the Cairo ball club, accompanied by hundreds of betting men from St. Louis, appeared in Pine Bluff. Thousands of people from as far away as Texas and Missouri came to Pine Bluff to witness the game, and it was said that the betting money 'flowed like water.'
“The shock to the locals was terrible. By the end of the day Wiley Jones was out $7,000, the editor of the local newspaper lost $2,000, and the crowd about $6,000 more.
“Jones was nearly crazy, but his business sense reasserted itself during the long hours of the night. He scheduled a game with another team in Arkansas and promptly hired the Cairo club to represent him. The Cairo club accepted his money, skinned the other club alive, and won back Jones’ money.
“Such is ball in Arkansas”
Hays Carlyon. “Longtime Bolles announcer Frank Callihan dies following stroke at age 76.”
“Frank Callihan.” Baseball Reference. https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=callih001jam
“Wiley Jones/ Pine Bluff Hustled For Over $15,000 on Baseball Bet. https://pinebluffbaseballhistory.wordpress.com/
“The Story of Professional Baseball in Pine Bluff, Arkansas 1887-1955.” https://pinebluffbaseballhistory.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/wileyjones-pinebluff-hustled-for-over-15000-on-baseball-bet/