A phenom’s plight

Old school Braves fans probably remember Hank Small, an Atlanta native and University of South Carolina legend once primed for stardom.

The big first baseman hit 25 homers, drove in 101 runs and hit .289 for the Richmond Braves in 1978. With Murph alternating between first and catcher, showing little aptitude for both, there seemed to be an opening for Small in Atlanta. The Braves opted for a retread instead (via The State):

Atlanta’s decision to go with free-agent first baseman Mike Lum at the expense of Small weighed on Small for years. Some say Small never sorted out all the questions and never found answers to why Atlanta ultimately shunned a hometown hero.

After a disappointing year back in Richmond, Small asked the Braves for his release. His baseball career was over at 25, with only four major league AB’s to show for it. He’d later find work as a groundskeeper at the same field, Chastain Park, where he was once a star.

He recently became engaged to Jennifer Strauss. A week ago Sunday the couple moved into what Strauss described as Small’s “dream house.” Two days later, Small fell on the front steps to the house, and he never regained consciousness.

Small was 56 when he died last March. I just discovered it tonight, hence the post.

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3 Comments on A phenom’s plight

  1. Roadrunner // January 30, 2011 at 8:09 am //

    Trading for Lum and keeping Small at Richmond was a Bill Lucas call. Lucas was the only GM of that era who was competent and made his mark in player development. It’s hard to believe that he thought Hawaiian Punch was a better player. Perhaps he thought Small needed more seasoning.

  2. I remember Hank Small’s name coming up during the ’05 season when all the local rookies got called up (notice I didn’t say “Baby Braves” – oops). I hadn’t heard about his accident either. Sad to hear.

  3. The Gamecock family still remembers his greatness.

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