Troy L. Puckett, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher.

by Hank Nuwer

My column today profiles a Winchester member of the Cup of Coffee Club. That club consists of baseball players who participated in a single major league game.

Troy Levi Puckett was a descendent of close-knit kin who held a family reunion each year in Randolph County. He was born in Buena Vista, Indiana, but moved to Randolph County with his parents as a child. His father, Tyre Puckett, ran a prosperous farm just outside the city limits.

Puckett graduated from elementary school in Winchester and from Winchester High School in 1908.

At Wabash College, he was a strong-armed, ace pitcher for the Little Giants, attracting attention from Major League scouts. He batted left but threw right-handed. A good student, he also was a skilled orator for the debating club. He interrupted his studies at the end of his junior year (and was elected president of the junior class).

In August 1911, after a brief stint in the minor leagues, the fourth-place Philadelphia Phillies bought his contract from the Paducah (Kentucky) Polecats of the K.I.T. (Kentucky-Indiana-Tennessee) League. Because he wanted to keep his college eligibility, he played under the pseudonym of Ernest L. (Troy) Brown. In his best Paducah game, he struck out 14 batters.

He waited anxious days at this Rural Route 1 home before reporting to the Phillies. The team mistakenly had sent his train ticket to Winchester, Ohio. He signed a contract for $1,000 for the partial season.

The team’s star that season was rookie right-handed pitcher Grover Cleveland (Old Pete) Alexander, destined to win 373 games in his career with the Phillies, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Alexander hailed from a Nebraska family farm, and he and Puckett hit it off as friends.

Puckett entered his one game on Oct. 4, 1911, in the top of the seventh inning with the Phillies already losing to the lowly Boston Braves. He pitched two innings and was described as nervous by a reporter.

He plunked one batter with a pitch, walked two and gave up four hits. His earned run average was a whopping 13.50, as he allowed three runs in two innings. He did strike out one batter and, on the field, had one assist. This was the first game of a doubleheader, and the Phils lost 7-3; Boston also won the second game 7-1. Puckett was lifted at the end of the game for a pinch hitter.

He was invited to spring training in 1912 but requested a postponement until after the semester at Wabash. He decided to give up baseball after another season in the minors. After his brief career ended, he returned to Wabash to finish undergraduate studies in 1913.

Puckett came back to Winchester where his father owned a farmhouse and 210 acres. While mucking out barn stalls, a bull turned on Troy and threw him over a manger. Had he fallen under the bull’s hooves, he might have been gored or stomped to death.

He threw himself into several Winchester social organizations and local and national Masonic activities. In 1915, the Winchester Athletic Association named him its president.

Puckett loved history and oratory. For the Lincoln Club of Randolph County, Puckett annually portrayed Abraham Lincoln, ending his presentation with a rousing rendition of the Gettysburg Address. At 6 feet, 2 inches, tall and a lean 185 pounds, with a long, elongated face, he closely resembled the slain 16th president.

For all his successes, Puckett also endured grave sorrows. He married DeSoto schoolteacher Loey C. Read in 1915, but the marriage was troubled. She left Puckett with young son William to live with her father in nearby Albany. Billy developed “rheumatism of the heart” and broke his parents’ hearts with his death at age 9.

After Puckett remarried a Quaker Girls’ Sunday School teacher, Eva Puckett, she died suddenly in 1949 of a heart attack at age 49. He remained active in the Masonic Society, attaining all offices before becoming a 33rd-degree Mason in 1950.

Troy Puckett died at 81 in the Randolph Nursing Home on April 13, 1971. A single autograph sells online for just under $100.

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On a magazine assignment in 1981, Hank Nuwer played first base in two spring training games with teammate Terry Francona for manager Felipe Alou’s Denver Bears.