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Eddie Shokes, who played briefly for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1940s, died on Sept. 14, 2002, in Winchester, Va. He was 82.
Shokes was a star athlete at Duke University, playing baseball, football and basketball. He was named to the All-America team in both baseball and basketball.
In 1940, the Duke first baseman was batting over .400 and it caught the attention of the major leagues. A report in the Chicago Daily Tribune on May 5, 1941, stated that the Reds and Yankees were locked in a bidding duel over Shokes.
The Reds won the battle and signed Shokes in early June 1941. To make room for Shokes on the roster, the Reds optioned veteran reliever Johnny Hutchings to Birmingham of the Southern Association.
He appeared in a single game for the Reds that season, striking out in a pinch-hit appearance on June 9. A couple of days later, he was optioned to Indianapolis of the American Association. According to a story in the Washington Post, Shokes was optioned to clear the way for the return of Hutchings -- at the request of Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis.
In 1942, he was back with the Reds during spring training and, in one intra-squad game, he connected on a pair of doubles and drove in three runs. By the end of spring training, however, he was back in the minor leagues. This time, he found himself with Syracuse of the International League.
Reports throughout the 1942 season tell of Shokes having an impressive performance at Syracuse including hitting three home runs in a double-header. It was enough of a showing that he was recalled by the Reds in August. However, he did play with the Reds after the recall.
Shokes baseball career was put on hold as military duty called. In 1943, he was still playing baseball, this time for the Norfolk Naval Air Station. The chief petty officer served in the Navy from 1943 to 1945.
He made his return to baseball in 1946, joining the Reds in Spring Training. On March 21, he connected on a three-run home run off the Indians' Mel Harder to help the Reds to an exhibition win. On March 29, he made Braves' fans cringe when he hit a line drive off the hand of Braves' starter Mort Cooper.
Shokes returned to the major leagues with the Reds following Spring Training, but he did not have much success during the 1946 season. He hit just .120 in 83 at-bats and drove in just five runs.
In 1947, he was back with Syracuse and his team faced Buffalo in the International League Playoffs. In the first game, on Sept. 17, Shokes picked up three hits in four at-bats as Syracuse wins, 14-1. On Sept. 24, Buffalo evened the series at three games apiece with a win in the 12th inning. Shokes was called out on a close play at the plate and it would have been the winning run for Syracuse.
While he was a important piece of the team's offense, Shokes was also one of Syracuse's stars on defense. In 1947, he was edged out by former Major Leaguer Babe Dahlgren as the top defensive first baseman in the International League. Dahlgren had a .9930 fielding average in 149 games to Shokes' .9928 in 153.
Shokes never returned to the major leagues and spent the
remainder of his career with Syracuse. He was inducted into the Syracuse Wall of
Fame in 2000 after compiling 2,861 at-bats for the Chiefs with 726 hits, 115
doubles, 19 triples, 58 home runs and 326 RBI. His career also included being
named an All-Star for the International League in 1951.