Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Conlon Nancarrow: Avant-Garde Arkansas Composer

Just before I departed Little Rock for Berkeley, CA in August 1980, I ran across a phonograph record in the Little Rock public library that caught my eye. It included some strange compositions by a man who had been born and raised in Texarkana, but had been living in Mexico City for several decades. Uniquely, the liner notes stated, his compositions were for a player piano. I checked out the record and, even though my roommates disparaged my interest in the sometimes frantic music, I found the compositions intriguing. 

When I showed up in Berkeley, I learned that a local record company had released more "studies" by this composer, Conlon Nancarrow. I got those records and started doing some research on his life. His story was a rich one. After growing up in Texarkana, he had moved east in 1931 to study music during the Depression and had become in communist. In 1937, he joined the Lincoln Battalion to fight against Franco (and his fascist allies) in the Spanish Civil War. Feeling mistreated by the government when he returned, Nancarrow moved to Mexico City in 1940 and decided to become a Mexican citizen.

Distant from the world of music he had known in Boston and New York, he decided to explore his interests in rhythm by composing for the player piano, punching his compositions directly on player-piano rolls.  His "studies" were prepared for two player pianos, which he had modified, in his Mexico City home. They could be heard only by going to Nancarrow's home.

He continued his composing, without recognition, for nearly 30 years before Columbia Records traveled to his Mexico City studio and in 1969 recorded some of his studies. This record stirred interest in his work and, over time, others came to his studio and recorded his music.

By 1980, when I first heard of Nancarrow, his fame had been slowly spreading and his decades of work had begun to pay off. In June 1981, he traveled to San Francisco to attend the New Music Festival at which his music was featured. (The trip was his first to the United States since 1947.) I attended the festival and a lecture he held. Also, I met him briefly through his brother, who was on the Texarkana city council for whom I had done some consulting work a couple of years earlier.

In 1982, I went to Aptos CA to attend the Cabrillo Festival, where he and his music were again featured. By then, his fame had multiplied and he had won prestigious Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships. After that festival, I moved on to other interests and after that did not pay much attention to Nancarrow and his life. He did just fine without my attention. 

Others became engaged in research on Nancarrow and his work. Several books have been written about him, and his work has been dissected at different conferences.  Also, Nancarrow caught the attention of Professor James Greeson of the University of Arkansas Music Department who produced an hour-long video about Nancarrow and his compositions. Check out these links related to Greeson's Nancarrow video and related research: 

Nancarrow died on August 10, 1997, but his life and work still command the attention of many academic researchers. For example, the Whitney Museum of American Art is holding an eleven-day long festival on the life and work of Nancarrow, titled "Anywhere in Time: A Conlon Nancarrow Festival," June 17 - June 28, 2015.  See this link:

Below is a transcription of an article I wrote about Nancarrow in 1982. It was published in the Grapevine, a Fayetteville weekly. (Unfortunately, the paper got my first name wrong in the byline.) Reading this article more than three decades later, I still find Nancarrow to be a rather romantic figure: a man who set his own course in music without much expectation of recognition. Nevertheless, in spite of the odds against him, his talent won out and he received accolades for his accomplishments. In essence he shaped the world around him rather than letting it shape him. 

Grapevine September 8, 1982

Conlon Nancarrow: Avant-Garde Arkansas Composer

by David (sic) Durning

Conlon Nancarrow, an Arkansas-born composer now living in Mexico, has spent the past thirty-five years writing piano compositions that no person can possibly play.

Since the middle 1940s, Nancarrow, trained in classical music and experienced as a jazz trumpeter, has composed music exclusively for old-style player pianos. More accurately, he has punched his compositions directly onto player piano rolls that can be played only on two specially modified player pianos that he keeps in his Mexico City home.

Writing music to be played only on your own player piano is not the conventional path to success for a composer. But then Conlon Nancarrow’s music, like is life, reflects an uncompromising individualism. His devotion to the player piano comes from his intense fascination with the use of rhythm and time in music. By punching his music onto the player piano roll, Nancarrow can produce complex rhythmic patterns and intricate, multi-layered tempos which no pianist—or even two or three at the same time – could ever play.

Nancarrow, now approaching seventy years of age, is emerging from long years of obscurity. His music, work of awesome originality, has caught the imagination of the avant-garde music world. His compositions (presented on tape) were featured last June in San Francisco at the New Music America ’81 Festival which was broadcast throughout the nation by National Public Radio. Nancarrow made his first trip to the United States since 1947 to be honored at the festival.

After hearing Nancarrow’s music, the music critic of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “Clearly this is one of the great composers America has produced – American or any other country.” Even more impressive, Gyorgy Ligeti, a well-known modern music composer, recently wrote, “Nancarrow’s music is so utterly original, enjoyable, constructive, and emotional. For me, it is the best music by any living composer.”

Altogether, Nancarrow has written 43 player piano compositions, which he calls “studies.” Each is from one to ten minutes long. It takes Nancarrow six to eight months to punch a six-minute composition on a piano roll. Thus, over three decades of work are contained in approximately four hours of music in these 43 rolls.

In this compact package of music, the work of a lifetime, torrents of piano notes are woven into powerful patterns through the imaginative manipulation of rhythm, tempo, and dynamics. The music is more akin to that produced by electronic instruments than the classical piano, but it has a deep intertwining of emotion and intellect usually lacking in electronic music.

A play piano can play a maximum of 88 notes per second with eight dynamic levels. Nancarrow uses this capacity of the player piano to stretch the limits of music. Gordon Mumma, a modern music composer, describes the music as “leaps into dynamic hyperspace.” The Chronicle music critic labeled the music as “wildly original.”

However Nancarrow’s music is described, no one will accuse him of being boring. For one thing, he is the only composer ever to compose by munching his music onto piano rolls.

Nevertheless, Nancarrow’s music does reflect the influence of others. Charles Amirkhanian, a composer and producer of Nancarrow’s recordings for 1750 Arch records, says that Nancarrow’s music is influenced by Stravinsky, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Bach, and Indian and African music.

In Nancarrow’ earlier studies, blues, ragtime and Spanish influences could be distinctly hears. His later studies have been more abstract, concentrating on mathematical relationships between rhythms. His last three studies were written to be played on two pianos simultaneously, creating an even more complex and startling barrage of tempos and rhythms.

The singular character of Nancarrow’s music is reflected in his life. Things started ordinarily enough: he was born in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1912, and spent his boyhood there. His father was manager of the Gulf Cooperage Company and served as mayor in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Charles Nancarrow, Conlon’s younger brother, still lives in Texarkana, where he has long worked in wholesale trade and has been active in civil affairs. Both Charles and Conlon played in the local Fred Martin’s Boy Band and American Legion band. Charles played the clarinet while Conlon played the trumpet.

After his father’s death in 1931, Nancarrow left Texarkana to begin the serious study of music, something his father had opposed. He studied first at the Cininnati College Conservatory for two years. He then took private music instruction, while employed by the Boston WPA, from Walter Piston, Nicolas Slonimsky, and Roger Sessions.

Like many other idealists at the time, Nancarrow made a decision in 1937 that was to dramatically affect his life: he joined the Lincoln Battalion, part of the International Brigade, to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Nancarrow was wounded while fighting in Spain and returned in 1938 to Texarkana to convalesce. After his return, he was harassed by the U.S. government, which viewed members of the Lincoln Battalion with suspicion beause of its ties to the Soviet Union.

Nancarrow moved to Mexico City, where a progressive regime held power, in 1940. His uneasy relations with the U.S. government convinced him that he would get no protection from it in times of emergencies, and he decided to become a Mexican citizen. He obtained Mexico citizenship in 1956.

While making his excursion into international politics and war, Nancarrow was gaining recognition as a promising young composer. At the time he was fighting in Spain, three of his composition were published in Modern Music, an important journal of avant-garde music. Commenting on these compositions, Aaron Copeland described Nancarrow as a “talented composer.” He wrote, “…These works show a remarkable surety in an unknown composer, plus a degree of invention and imagination that immediately gives him a place among our younger men.” In 1940, Nancarrow was singled out for recognition at the Second Young Composer’s Concert of the League of Composers

After setting in Mexico City, Nancarrow continued composing while taking on part-time jobs to earn a living. By the middle 1940s, he fixed upon the player piano as a medium for his work. In 1947, he journeyed to New York to buy a machine designed to punch player piano rolls.

Since Mexico City is far from the musical mainstream, Nancarrow has worked with little direct contract with the musical world. He accumulated vast amounts of written and recorded materials that allowed him to pursue his study of rhythm and tempo, but went his own may, writing music to please himself.

Until recently, the only way to hear Nancarrow’s music was to journey to his home in Mexico City where he keeps his two upright pianos with Ampico reproducing mechanism. These pianos have been modified to give them a more metallic sound. Since Nancarrow will not move his pianos for concerts, his music could be played only at his house.

Nancarrow’s music was first brought out of his house in 1969 when Columbia Records went to Mexico City, recorded several of his compositions, and released them in an album, Studies for the Player Piano. After twenty years of composing, Nancarrow’s music was brought to the music public.

In the early 1970s, a group of young, avant-garde composers journeyed to Mexico to hear more of Nancarrow’s music. They were excited by what they heard, and began a campaign to secure a larger audience for his music. As a result, all of Nancarrow’s music, recorded in Mexico City, is being released by 1750 Arch Records in Berkeley, California. To date, three volumes have been issued and two more are planned.

The last few years have brought honors and success to Nancarrow. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978, and this year [1982] he received a MacArthur Foundation grant (up to $300,000) which is awarded to creative people who do not apply for the grant nor have to do anything specific with the money. The European Broadcast Union commissioned him to write several composition. His journey to San Francisco for the New Music Festival brought him acclaim and gained national exposure for his music.

Nancarrow will return to the United States in late August [1982] to be the featured composer at the Cabrillo Festival in Aptos, California. His music will be presented in a New York City concern on October 27. Shortly after the New York concert, Nancarrow will embark on upon a tour of Europe that will be highlighted by his appearance as a featured at the Autumn Festival in Graz, Austria.

This growing interest in and acclaim for Nancarrow’s music is a triumph not only for his musical talent, but also for the extraordinary artistic integrity that kept him wedded to his player piano toiling in obscurity and isolation. He joins a growing list of both classical and popular musicians, vocalists, and composer from Arkansas, a state rich in musical tradition. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

“Fayetteville Freddie” Hawn: A Good Life in Baseball

“We’ll say this for Fayetteville Freddie – He is a hustling skipper and a likable guy.”
Carl Bell (sports columnist), Northwest Arkansas Times, January 26, 1942, p. 6.

“Most popular of Fayetteville managers was Fred Hawn, a home-town boy.” W.J. Lemke, The Fayetteville Angels

"Trader" Hawn [should] stay with baseball -- because he is to baseball, as far as Fayetteville history is concerned, a lot like W.J. Lemke is to journalism in Arkansas…The good ones never quit. Alan Gilbert. Our Town (column): An Angel Revisited. Northwest Arkansas Times, July 8, 1972, p. 3.

If you were a young baseball player in Arkansas, Missouri, or Oklahoma during the 1950s and 1960s, and if you had a modicum of talent as a pitcher or hitter, you hoped that a man named Fred Hawn would show up to watch you pitch a no hitter or hit four home runs or, preferably, both. Perhaps after such a game, you thought, Hawn would pull a contract and a bonus check from his pocket and you would be headed to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Business Card Courtesy of Bubba McCord 
Hawn could do that because he was a Cardinals’ scout. He signed such major leaguers as Lindy and Von McDaniel from nearby Oklahoma, Jim King from Elkins, the Smith brothers from Barling, and Wally Moon. Maybe, young players thought, we could be next.

Hawn, a long-time and well-known Fayetteville resident, had become a Cardinal scout in about 1946, and he continued in that position until 1972.  Before that, the Huntsville native had been a local luminary as a player for and manager of Fayetteville’s first professional baseball team.

His pro career began in 1929, when Hawn was 22, as a catcher for the Muskogee/Maud Chiefs, a team in the Class C Western Association. Hawn, playing at 5’ 8”, 165 pounds, he did not take pro ball by storm, although he hit a respectable .261 his first year. He came back to play for the Muskogee Chiefs in 1930, hitting only .239 in 79 games.

That batting average was not good enough to get him on a professional team in 1931, but he returned briefly to pro ball in 1932 to play for the Ft. Smith Twins/Muscogee Chiefs, appearing in only 15 games. In 1933, he again did not play on a professional team.

Some 27-year-old players might have given up on professional baseball after they had played only 15 games on pro teams in three years. Not Fred Hawn. He got back into pro ball in 1934 by helping create the Arkansas State League (Class D) and co-owning one of its teams, the Fayetteville Educators. Hawn was not only the team owner, he also organized and managed it, and was the team’s starting catcher.

Fayetteville Bears, likely 1936. Hawn has his hands on his hips on the back row.
The bat boy in the back row is Sherman Lollar, a Fayetteville resident who
later became a major league star . The picture was published in J.B. Hogan,
Angels in the Ozarks (1913)
As he played for and managed the Fayetteville team in 1934, 1936 and part of 1937, Hawn became a well-known, popular figure in the city. His fame was assisted by a talented young reporter for the local paper, W.J. Lemke, who loved baseball and wrote colorful stories about the local team and others in the league.[1]  Lemke had high regard for Hawn and was amused by him. Lemke tagged him with several nicknames, such as “Old Timer,” based on Hawn’s advanced age in a league full of younger players.

Hawn’s connection with the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization, for whom he would work for more than 35 years, likely started in 1936 when – after a year out of pro baseball -- he managed and played for the Fayetteville team. The team was affiliated with the Cedar Rapids minor league team, a St. Louis Cardinal Class A farm club.  In 1937, Hawn returned to the Fayetteville Angels as manager-player, but in July he was sent to manage the New Iberia (Louisiana) Cardinals, another of St. Louis’ Class D teams.

In 1938, Hawn did not manage a team, but had some new experiences:  he assisted with the Cardinal’s spring training camp in Florida, then worked as a coach with the Columbus Red Birds, the Cardinal’s AA farm team, its highest level farm team at the time.[2]

Hawn returned in 1939 to the Arkansas-Missouri League to manage and play for the Monet Cardinals. After that, he continued to manage Cardinal farm teams in 1940 and 1941.

Hawn spent 1942, 1943, and 1944 in the Army Air Force (AAF), mostly playing and coaching baseball at the AAF’s Virginia Beach facility. Back in civilian life in 1945, he was player/manager for the Johnson City (Tennessee) Cardinals. Following that experience, he gave up managing and playing to become a full-time scout for the Cardinal team. Based in Fayetteville, he evaluated talent in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

When he retired in 1972, it was clear that “Fayetteville Freddie” had been able to parlay some modest athletic talent, grit, and an out-sized personality into local fame and a long career in professional baseball.

Fayetteville Freddie’s Early Years

Fred Hawn was born in Huntsville on September 26, 1906. [3] He, his older brother, and his parents, Carl and Mary Olga Baker Hawn, moved to Fayetteville before he was 9 years old. We know that Fred and his family were living in Fayetteville in May 1916 due to a short item in the Fayetteville Daily Democrat stating that 9-year-old Fred Hawn had been admitted to the city hospital with lockjaw.[4] A few days later, on May 29, 1916 (p 4), the newspaper reported that Fred had been successfully treated and was out of the hospital

The Hawn family was hit by a tragedy in 1918 when Jack Hawn, Freddy’s older brother was accidentally shot dead as he (age 13), Freddy (age 12), and Lowry Nunnelly (age 13), a neighborhood kid, were “playing soldier.”  According to the front-page newspaper account, a shotgun that Nunnelly was using as a toy unexpectedly discharged, killing Jack.[5] Fred saw his brother shot. The newspaper described what happened:
Fayetteville Democrat, July 15, 1918
No blame is attached by relatives of the unfortunate lad. The trigger apparently was touched accidentally when the Hawn Lad gave the command “halt” and the Nunnally (sic?) boy lowered the gun from his shoulder to the ground. It was not known that the weapon was loaded.

Both children had the desire to become soldiers and they drilled frequently.[6]

In the years that followed, Fred Hawn’s name appeared in the local paper on a few occasions in conjunction with sports. In 1920, a newspaper story reported that the Fayetteville Tigers were going to play the Springdale “Scrubs” in football. The Fayetteville team was made up of high school freshmen and some grammar school boys. The starters included Fred Hawn at the quarterback position and “Lowry Nunnely”(sic?) -- the boy who had accidentally shot his brother -- as a halfback.[7] 

In September 1921, Fred Hawn boxed Fay Lewis in the second match of a ten-match exhibition staged by the Rotary Club to raise money for a school playground and athletic field. The matches were held at the Lyric Theater. According to the newspaper, the four-round Hawn-Fox fight was pretty even, but Hawn may have won “by a shade.”[8]

A couple of days later, a story in the local paper described the efforts of Lowry Nunnelly to help create a football conference in Northwest Arkansas in which Fayetteville High School would compete. Nunnelly was the team’s captain and Fred Hawn was listed as a candidate to play tackle for the FHS team.[9]

A newspaper article in 1923 declared that the University High School baseball team was the champion of Northwest Arkansas. The team’s catcher was 16-year-old Fred Hawn, whose batting average was .363. It must have been some team: Hawn’s batting average was only the 7th best of the starters.[10]

The Early Years in Professional Baseball

I have no information about Hawn’s life from 1924 to 1928. I would guess that he was playing semi-pro baseball during these years, perhaps with a full-time job to support him.

He shows up in the records of professional baseball as playing baseball in 1929 for a team in the Western Association, Class C ball, the Muskogee/Maud Chiefs.  Hawn had a good year at the plate, hitting .261 in 68 games (see table 1). His defensive play as a catcher was not as good, with 36 errors and the team’s lowest fielding percentage.[11]

In 1930, he was again on the Muskogee Chiefs/Springfield Midgets team, hitting .239 in 79 games. His fielding improved, with only 15 errors in the 68 games he caught.[12]

Perhaps because of his low batting average the previous year, Hawn was out of professional ball in 1931, but returned 1932, playing only 15 games and hitting a lowly .111 for the Fort Smith Twins/Muscogee Chiefs.[13]  He was again out of professional baseball in 1933. The following tables show the teams for which Hawn played and/or managed during his career and his batting statistics for each year he played.

Table 1
Fred Hawn’s Career in Professional Baseball

Year       Teams                                                League                                      Class         Sponsor
1929      Muskogee/Maud Chiefs                Western Association                      C
1930      Muskogee Chiefs/                          Western Association                     C
               Springfield Midgets                                                                                   
1932      Fort Smith Twins                           Western Association                     C               St. Louis Browns
/Muscogee Chiefs                          Western Association                    
1934*   Fayetteville Educators                    Arkansas State League                  D
1935      Fayetteville Bears                           Arkansas State League                 D               Cedar Rapids
1936*   Fayetteville Bears                           Arkansas–Missouri League           D              Cedar Rapids
1937*   Fayetteville Angels                         Arkansas-Missouri League            D              Cedar Rapids
1937*   New Iberia Cardinals                      Evangeline League                        D               STL Cardinals
1938** Columbus (OH)                             American Association                   AA            STL Cardinals
1939*   Monett Red Birds                           Arkansas-Missouri League            D               STL Cardinals
1940*   Cooleemee Cards                           N. Carolina State League                D              STL Cardinals
1941*   Cooleemee Cards                           N. Carolina State League                D              STL Cardinals
1941*   Union City Greyhounds                 Kentucky-Illinois-Tenn. League     D              STL Cardinals        
1945*   Johnson City Cardinals                  Appalachian League                        D              STL Cardinals
* Manager/Player

Minor League Batting Average
Year                      Games                 At Bats                 Hits        Batting Average
1929                     68                         199                       52                         .261
1930                     79                         209                       50          .              239
1932                     15                         45                         5                            .111
1934                     65                         228                       51                         .224
1935                     9                            27                         12                         .444
1936                     101                       348                       100                       .287
1937                     83                         241                       50                         .207
1939                     81                         220                       39                         .177
1940                     19                         36                         4                            .111
1941                     83                         218                       49                         .228
1945                     26                         66                         18                         .273
All (11 yrs)          629                       1837                     430                       .234
Class D (8 yrs)    467                       1384                     323                       .233      
Class C (3 yrs)    162                       453                       107        .              236       

The Arkansas State and Arkansas-Missouri Leagues (1934-1941)

After playing only 15 games of professional baseball over three seasons, Hawn’s future in pro ball was not bright; however, he found a way in 1934 to get back into the game: he helped to create a new Class D league, the Arkansas State League, in which he co-owned the Fayetteville team. During the first season of the League, it was comprised of the Bentonville Officeholders, the Siloam Springs Buffalos, Rogers Rustlers, and the Fayetteville Educators. In the years that followed, some teams left the league and others joined it. In 1936, the league was renamed the Arkansas-Missouri League because Cassville and Monett, both cities in Missouri, had teams in the league.[14]. 

According to W. J. Lemke, Hawn was a “moving spirit behind the organization” of the league.  At a meeting on March 1, 1934 to organize the league, he and V. James Ptak, who was for many years a judge in Fayetteville, represented the city.[15]  Hawn led the effort to create a team in Fayetteville that would be part of the new league. He not only was an owner of the new Fayetteville team, he recruited and selected the players for the team, managed it, and usually was its starting catcher.  Thanks in large part to his efforts, the Fayetteville Educators --the city’s first professional baseball team – played its first game on May 8, 1934.

The team did not do well in the standings and Hawn had a mediocre year as a player, hitting only .224.  Even worse for him, the team’s revenues were not sufficient to cover its expenses. The revenues came mostly from the admission charge, 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children; from the beginning, attendance was often low. It declined further after the team’s Fairgrounds Park lost some of its best seats when on June 16, the roof over them collapsed during a wind storm.[16]

The team’s expenses included salaries of $30 to $50 salaries for each of the teams 14 or so players, payment of league expenses (e.g. for umpires and dues to a national organization of professional teams), and the cost of transportation and baseballs (two new balls per game, 80 cents each).[17]  Throughout the first year, teams in the league were often on the brink of financial disaster.

According to Lemke, the precarious financial situation of the Educators was evident in the ragged, dirty uniforms the players wore. Lemke wrote that at the end of the season, “There [wasn’t] a whole suit in the bunch and the cloth contained more dirt than cloth.”[18]

In late July, the Fayetteville team – and Fred Hawn – faced a crisis. The other co-owner had given up his interest in the team, leaving Hawn – who suddenly became the sole owner -- responsible for finding money to pay a $225 team debt. In this Depression year, he did not have the money and had no prospect of getting it elsewhere.  As a result, on August 1st he gave ownership of the team (along with the debt) to the League. He later told a newspaper columnist, “I lost durned near everything I had.”[19]

This whole matter was so distressing and stressful for Hawn that he took off a few days from the team and gave up his position as manager. After missing a few games, he returned as a player, but the season ended early, soon after his return, because of the league’s financial problems.[20]

After the 1934 financial failure, the ownership of the Fayetteville team was assumed by a group of local businessmen, and its finances were somewhat more solid with their backing and some modest assistance from the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization. Perhaps because of the financial fiasco, Hawn was not on the Fayetteville team (renamed the Bears) during most of the 1935 season, but returned as the season was ending to play in nine games.  

The following year, 1936, Hawn was again hired to manage the Fayetteville team, likely, at least in part, due to a campaign on his behalf waged by Al Williams, a sports writer for the Fayetteville Daily Democrat.[21]  On March 2, 1936, the paper announced that the “antediluvian” Hawn, the “ancient mariner,” had been named to manage the team. Hawn was 29 years old at the time.

During the 1936 season, Hawn played the best baseball of his career. In 101 games, his batting average was .287, well above his lifetime average of .234. At one point in the season, he had a nineteen-game hitting streak.[22] To celebrate his role with the team, “Fred Hawn Day” was held on September 3, 1936 at the Washington County Fair Grounds at a Fayetteville Bears game, and Hawn was given a shotgun as a gift, paid for by contributions from fans. That day, he was injured by a foul tip off one of his fingers and had to leave the game and miss the rest of the season.[23]

At the end of the season, Hawn was received an “honorable mention” for the Arkansas-Missouri League’s all-star team. Although he had a stellar year as a player, he did not have much to brag about as the manager: the team’s record was 53 wins and 67 losses

Hawn returned in 1937 to manage and play for the Fayetteville team, whose name had been changed to Fayetteville Angels. As in 1936, the Fayetteville team was a St. Louis Cardinal farm club (through its affiliation with the Cedar Rapids minor league team) and in the middle of the season, Hawn was promoted to manage another of St. Louis’s minor league teams, the New Iberia (Louisiana) Cardinals, in the Evangeline League. This team was a direct affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hawn got caught up in a controversy that arose because the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937, contrary to rules set by the baseball commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, operated two farm clubs in the Arkansas-Missouri League: Monett and Fayetteville. The perpetually frowning Landis had decreed that major league teams could have only one team per minor league organization, and he held a hearing in March 1938 to investigate St. Louis’s transgressions. He summoned Hawn to testify at the hearing. When asked what he had said in his testimony, he replied: “Well…I was so nervous that the first thing I knew I was telling him the truth.” [24] Apparently his testimony did not upset the Cardinals too much because he continued to work for its organization.

In 1938, Hawn had no involvement in the Arkansas-Missouri League, but he came back to the league in 1939 to manage and play for the Monett Red Birds, the St. Louis Cardinal’s remaining farm team in the league. According to W.J. Lemke, Hawn’s first game in Fayetteville as the manager of the Monett team attracted substantial attention:

The price of admission has been reduced to 10 cents to assure a big crowd for the homecoming of Fred Hawn….Fred is pretty popular around these parts and the fans are planning to indulge a bit of razzing when Fred appears in the third base coaching box. If he should happen into an argument with the umpire, the fans would really enjoy that.”[25] 

Lemke wrote about the Monett-Fayetteville game following day, noting that when Monett’s catcher got hit on the hand by a foul tip, it looked as if Fred Hawn would have to catch. But the catcher stayed in the game so Hawn did not play. Nevertheless, Lemke got in one of his friendly digs at Hawn, writing:  “Fred confined his activity to walking from the bench to the third coaching box and back again. That’s pretty strenuous exercise for a man his age.”[26] 
Northwest Arkansas Times, May 5, 1939, p. 9

Hawn played in 81 games in 1939, but hit only .177 for Monett. He also pitched in 6 games for the team, a total of 21 innings in which he gave up 20 hits and 7 earned runs. His ERA was a respectable 3.00. The Monett team had a disastrous record, winning only 35 games while losing 89.

The following year, 1940, when the Arkansas-Missouri League had to shut down because of failing finances, Hawn was managing the Cooleemee Cards in the North Carolina State League.

In reading about the history of the Arkansas State/Arkansas-Missouri League, it is clear that Fred Hawn was an important and popular figure in the League during his two-and-a-half seasons with the Fayetteville team and his year with the Monett team. Lemke wrote about Hawn:

Much of the local communities’ interest in Ark-Mo baseball was due to the personalities of the team managers. Fred Hawn, a home-town boy who managed the Educations-Bears-Angels for four seasons [sic] had a big following. He supplied some good baseball plus a lot of entertainment.

According to Lemke,

Fred loved his publicity, even when the sports stories referred to him as “The Ancient Mariner” or the “antediluvian receiver.” He thought them complimentary remarks. Once, when Fred accidentally stole a base, a newspaper column described the unusual occurrence thusly: Hawn went into second base like a freight on the St. Paul branch of the Frisco.” Fred considered this high praise and carried the clipping around in his wallet for several years. The lovable guy is still in baseball, serving as scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. [27]  

Lemke told several stories about Hawn and his time in the Arkansas-Missouri League. According to Lemke, Hawn did not get off to a fast start in 1934, the first year of the Arkansas State League and did not get a hit for week. When he did get his first hit, “he knelt down and kissed first base.” Another account of the incident, cited by Hogan, was in the local newspaper, which reported that Hawn not only kissed the base, but also shook the hand of the first baseman.[28]

Lemke wrote about a game on August 27, 1936 when the Bear’s second baseman, Monte Johnson, was hit on the head by a pitched ball in the first inning. He noted, “Fred Hawn took Monte’s place at second base, fielded the position flawlessly, and drove out two hits.”  He also described a time in 1939 when Hawn pitched for the Monett Cards, the team he was managing:

On one occasion Monett was leading the Angels in the latter part of the game, when the Monett pitcher showed some signs of weakening. Manager Hawn removed his pitcher and took over the mound himself. He threw a roundhouse curve that the Fayetteville fans called a “Dickson street sinker.” Fred saved the game for his club. In one inning he retired three men on four pitched balls, causing the Times to remark, “Old Trader Horn” must have had something but what it was nobody will ever know.”

From Lemke, we know that Hawn who “had been a catcher in pro baseball a long time”…”had every knuckle on every finger on every hand (he had two of them) busted at one time or another.” He had a “high shrill whistle” that he used when in the coaching box. [29]

As noted, Lemke liked to make jokes about Hawn’s age: He was in his late 20s and early 30s when managing and playing for Fayetteville and Monett.  Lemke is the writer who labeled him “anteviluivan receiver” “old timer” and “The Ancient Mariner.”  Nevertheless, Lemke had great respect for him because “…he knew baseball and how to handle young pitchers.” Writing about a game when Monett, coached by Hawn, had beaten the Angels, Lemke wrote: “Fred ‘Old Timer’ Hawn … practically won Saturday’s game by using his noodle. He out-smarted the Angels and the umpires.”[30]

Fred Hawn: Working for the Cardinals and Uncle Sam

When Hawn managed the Fayetteville team in 1936, he must have impressed the St. Louis Cardinal organization, which had pioneered the use of “farm clubs” in the minor leagues to help prepare its players for the major leagues. In 1937, Hawn was clearly affiliated with, though likely not yet an employee of, the Cardinals. As mentioned earlier, that year he was promoted midseason from the Monett Cardinals to manage another Cardinals’ farm team. 

In 1938, Hawn had an unusual year, one that likely solidified his role with the Cardinals. After marrying Maud Gold in Fayetteville on February 8, the couple went to Florida where Hawn assisted the Cardinal’s training school in Winter Haven.[31] When the season started, Hawn was on the coaching staff of the AA Columbus Red Birds, the Cardinal’s highest ranked farm team.
Fred Hawn in 1938 with the Columbus Red Birds; Photo from Hogan, Angels in the Ozarks
As described earlier, Hawn returned to the Arkansas-Missouri League in 1939 to manage the Monett Cards, then in 1940, he was sent to manage the Cooleemee Cards, another St. Louis Cardinal’s class D farm team, in the North Carolina State League.  He also played in 19 games there, hitting .111.[32]

In late-March, 1941, Hawn headed to Albany Georgia to instruct pitchers in the Cardinal organization for two weeks; then he did the same thing for two weeks at Columbus, Georgia. After that, he went to North Carolina to again manage the Cooleemee Cards.[33]

Hawn was in Cooleemee until July when, according to an on-line history of the Union City Greyhounds:

Branch Rickey engineered a switch of managers sending [Charlie] Martin to Cooleemee, North Carolina, and bringing Fred Hawn to the [Union City] Greyhounds. He said it should put new life into both teams. For a while he was right.

Hawn, a 14 year veteran in professional ball, was an instant hit in Union City [Tennessee}, even though he replaced one of the most popular managers to hold the job. In six weeks he had the Greyhounds in second place with a record of 49-44. The club held a "Freddie Hawn Night", and had 1200 cheering fans turn out for a 3-1 victory over the Fulton Tigers. [34] 

These sentences suggest that the legendary Branch Rickey, who was for a while manager (1919 – 1925) then the equivalent of the general manager (1925-1942) of the St. Louis Cardinals, was instrumental in Hawn’s early career with the Cardinals. In fact, if Rickey had not pioneered the use of minor league teams for the development of talent for the Cardinals, Hawn may have been out of professional baseball after 1930. Because the Cardinals, then other clubs following its example, affiliated with and helped to finance minor league teams, minor leagues flourished and people like Hawn had a chance to make a career in baseball with them. It is no wonder that Hawn, according to Lemke, believed “Branch Rickey is the greatest man this nation has ever produced.”[35]

Hawn interrupted his baseball carrier in 1942, when at the age of 35 he joined the Army Air force (AAF).  As an enlisted man in the AAF, he made good use of his baseball knowledge. He was stationed at the AAF’s “redistribution center” in Atlantic City.  According to a newspaper story in the Binghamton (NY) Press, the center operated an extensive sports program for pilots who had completed their tours on the war fronts. As they were awaiting reassignment, they came to the facility at Atlantic City to relax and recuperate.[36]  While there, they had their choice of 22 different sports, including baseball, in which they could take part. The story noted that Sgt. Fred Hawn was in charge of baseball and was also the catcher and one of the leading hitters on the station team.

After he was discharged from the military, Hawn managed the Johnson City (Tennessee) Cardinals in 1945 and, at the age of 39, played in 26 games, hitting .273.  One of his players was a raw young pitcher from Missouri, Cloyd Boyer. According to Boyer, Hawn’s coaching advice was vital for his development and helped him become a major league pitcher. (Cloyd’s brothers Ken and Clete also played in the major leagues for many years.)[37]

Fred Hawn: St. Louis Cardinals Scout

Hawn became a full-time scout in the latter part of 1945 or in 1946 after he finished managing the Johnson City team. The 1947 Baseball Guide and Record Book, compiled by J.G. Taylor Spink, lists Hawn as scout for  the  St. Louis Cardinals.[38] 

During Hawn’s years of scouting, the job required judgement and wisdom unaided by tools such as “guns” to measure how fast a ball was thrown. A scout might occasionally use a stop watch to measure speed, but mostly formed his impressions of reflexes, hitting and fielding ability, savvy, speed, and other factors by watching players play.

To find talented country players that might otherwise be difficult to identify, scouts would invite players to attend tryout camps they would operate at different locations. There, they could watch players display their abilities. Also, they would attend special baseball instructional schools, such as the one conducted in 1948 by Rogers Hornsby in Hot Springs.[39]  These camps and schools sometime uncovered players that made it to the major leagues.

Much of a scout’s time from early spring through December was spent watching prospects play baseball. Hawn would get tips about players from a network of “birddogs,” coaches, friends, and acquaintances who loved baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals. He traveled extensively around his territory, checking out players who might make the grade.[40]

Of course, a scout’s job was not only to identify top prospects, but also to sign them before another team got their signature on a contract. Thus, Hawn had to build relationships with young prospects and, often, with their parents, preferably starting when the player was still in high school. A good example of Hawn’s ability to build such relationships can be seen in the story of the signing of Lindy McDaniel, who grew up on a farm in rural Oklahoma. He was most successful major league player that Hawn signed.

Lindy McDaniel signing with the St. Louis Cardinals; Fred Hawn behind his left
shoulder with a hand on the desk; his father is behind Lindy's right shoulder
This photo is displayed on McDaniel's blog:
Newell McDaniel, Lindy’s father, wrote about his son’s signing in an article published in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper in 1957.  In it, he told how Hawn developed his connection with Lindy and his family and how it paid off:

During the period between 1953 and early 1955, we had several visits from Fred Hawn the Cardinals’ scout in the Oklahoma-Arkansas area. Fred is one of the most honest men I’ve ever met and he’s practically become one of our family.

After Lindy had outgrown American Legion competition, Fred arranged for him to play in an industrial league in Oklahoma City and later for team in Bentonville, Arkansas. It was good experience for Lindy and yet he remained eligible to play baseball and basketball at college. When Lindy came home from school in the spring of ’55, Fred offered him a job at an oil company in Sinton, Texas, where he could play with the company’s traditionally powerful team in the National Baseball Congress (N.B.C.) competition. The salary was good and Lindy pounced on the offer.

By August, Lindy’s pitching had helped the team reach the N.B.C. playoffs. I was making plans to take the family to one of the games when a call from Lindy upset the calm.

“A scout from the Philadelphia Phillies has just offered me $30,000 to sign a contract, Dad,” Lindy told me. “What should I do?”

“Don’t do anything for a few minutes.”

Quickly I called Fred Hawn.

Let’s go down to Sinton,” he said.

At Sinton, Fred watched Lindy thrown for 15 minutes before a game. When the boy finished, Fred turned to me. “I’m ready to take him to St. Louis,” he told me.

Lindy got a tryout with St. Louis and impressed manager Harry Walker and general manager Bing Devine. When they told him they wanted to sign him, McDaniel replied that he would sign only if he received a bonus of $50,000. They said they had to get approval from Cardinal owner Augustus Busch to pay that amount. At first Busch refused to pay that amount, but ultimately agreed.  Then:

The next morning, Fred Hawn almost broke down our door. His beaming face told use the news. The Cardinals had decided Lindy was worth $50,000 – the biggest bonus they had every paid any boy.[41]

This story shows some of the mechanics involved in getting the signature of a big-time pitcher on a Cardinals’ contract. After building a relationship over several years, Hawn was able to steer Lindy McDaniel to the Cardinals when he was ready to play in the Big Leagues. 

Hawn must have been a good scout because he kept his job until he reached retirement age in 1972. As part of his retirement, he was honored with a special night at the Tulsa 0iler baseball park on August 26. (Tulsa was the nearest St. Louis farm club to Fayetteville.) According to the Fayetteville paper, 30 or more couples traveled from Fayetteville to take part in the night honoring him.[42] .

“Fayetteville Freddie” on the Sidelines

Perhaps Fayetteville Freddie was nudged into retirement a bit before he wanted. In an article about his retirement, he indicated that he might take a job scouting for another team. Apparently, he did not. However, I doubt that he ever quit keeping an eye out for baseball talent that might be of value to his Cardinals.
Hawn (left, in white pants) playing golf. Northwest Arkansas Times,
August 23, 1962, p. 1.
Hawn apparently enjoyed golf and in retirement was often at the Fayetteville Country Club. My friend and fellow baseball player in the early 1960s, Bubba McCord, says he often saw him there.[43]

The retired scout had an embarrassing and regrettable incident in 1975 that made the newspapers, but I will omit that story.  Instead I prefer to look back at the career of Fayetteville Freddie and admire all that he accomplished during his life in baseball through his grit, hard work, and personality. He was a person that Fayetteville could proudly claim as its own.


[1] Walter John Lemke (1891-1968) is a beloved figure in Fayetteville’s history. Not only did he write for the Fayetteville paper (the Fayetteville Daily Democrat, whose name was changed to the Northwest Arkansas Times in 1938), he later headed the journalism department at the University of Arkansas. The department is now named after him. See this Arkansas Encyclopedia entry: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?search=1&entryID=2923

[2] AAA teams were not added until 1946; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_League_Baseball

[3] The date of birth is from his obituary in the Northwest Arkansas Times, August 24, 1985, p. 2.  Most of his on-line baseball records are calculated based on a birthday of September 26, 1909. Thus, for example, the roster of the 1945 Johnson City Cardinals shows that Hawn was 36 years old in 1945 when he actually turned 39 that year. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=0c6a14f7

[4] Fayetteville Daily Democrat, May 23, 1916, p4.  

[5] The newspaper story spelled the boy’s last name two different ways: Nunnally and Nunnely. Other articles in the newspaper in following years usually spelled his name as Nunnelly. I believe that Nunnelly is the correct spelling. 

[6]   “Jack Hawn Accidentally Killed by Playmate.” Fayetteville Democrat, July 15, 1918, p 1.

[7] “Tigers to Meet Springdale Scrubs.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, Nov. 5, 1920.

[8] “10-Bouts Staged as Playground Benefit; About $100 Cleared.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, September 8, 1921, p. 1.

[9] “New High School Team Expect to be Winner.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, Sept 10, 1921 p. 1.

[10] “U.H.S. Nine Champs of N.W. Arkansas.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, May 15, 1923 p.6

[11] When teams are identified with a slash, it indicates that the same team played at more than one city during the season.  For 1929 Muskogee/Maud Chiefs statistics, see:  http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=4dce3d59

[12] Team statistics for the 1930 Muskogee Chiefs can be found here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=1df6c841

[13] Team statistics for the 1932 Ft Smith Twins/Muskogee Chiefs:  http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=e8b2e973

[14] The story of the Fayetteville Educators/Bears/Angels and the Arkansas-Missouri League has been told well by two writers. First, W.J. Lemke covered the team and the league throughout their history as a reporter for the Fayetteville paper. He clearly enjoyed baseball and had an eye for colorful characters and amusing anecdotes that made for lively and often humorous reading. A dozen years after the closing of the league, he wrote a short history of it, titled The Fayetteville Angels or Why Baseball is Our National Pastime being A History of the Arkansas-Missouri League (1952?). This booklet has no publication date (e.g., year of publication) and is not paginated.

More recently, a detailed, well-researched history of the Fayetteville Educators/Bears/Angels was published in a book, Angels in the Ozarks by J.R. Hogan [Pen-L Publishing, 2013]. Hogan not only provides a season-by-season account of the league and the Fayetteville team, but also appends about 60 page of rosters, player accomplishments, and statistics covering the entire history of the league.  The book recounts many of the interesting stories about the players and teams, and it gives accounts of key games played each year.

These two books are the sources of most of what I write about Hawn’s years in the Arkansas State/Arkansas-Missouri League. They are supplemented by information from some newspaper articles located through Newspapers.com.

[15] Hogan [2013] provides a thorough account of the creation of the league, and Lemke [1952] offers some details about the creation. (See footnote 14)

[16] According to Lemke,  “On June 16, a windstorm unroofed the central part of the grandstand, so that for the remainder of that season the fans had to sit at the north and south ends of the stand, leaving the gaping center section empty.”[Lemke, 1952, n.p.]  Also see Carl Kay Bell. On the 50-Yard Line (column), Northwest Arkansas Times, March 27, 1941, p. 4.

[17] For details of league and team finances, see Hogan, 2013, especially pages 2-3. (See footnote 14)

[18] See Lemke, 1952. (See footnote 14)

[19] Carl Kay Bell. On the 50-Yard Line (column), Northwest Arkansas Times, March 27, 1941, p. 4.

[20] See accounts in Lemke, 1952 and Hogan, 2013, p. 12. (See footnote 14)

[21] Hogan, 2015, p. 40

[22] Hogan, 2015, p. 49

[23] Hogan, 2015, p. 53

[24] Quoted in Lemke, 1952, n.p.

[25] W.J. Lemke. “Angel Food” (column). Northwest Arkansas Times, May 4, 1939, p. 4.

[26] W.J. Lemke. “Angel Food” (column), Northwest Arkansas Times, May 5, 1939, p. 8.

[27] Lemke quotes are from Lemke, 1952, unless a newspaper source is cited.

[28] Hogan, 2013, footnote 9, p. 166.

[29] W.J. Lemke. “Just Neighbors”. Fayetteville Daily Democrat, July 15, 1936, p. 4

[30] W.J. Lemke. “Angel Food” (column). Northwest Arkansas Times, May 29, 1939, p. 6.

[31] Gold had graduated from the University of Arkansas and was on the staff of the local paper, whose name had been recently changed from the Fayetteville Daily Democrat to the Northwest Arkansas Times (NWAT). “Hawn-Gold Wedding on February 8 Announced Today.” Northwest Arkansas Times, March 23, 1938, p. 3. 

A brief article in the Northwest Arkansas Times in September 1938 stated that Fred Hawn had returned to Fayetteville after coaching the Columbus teams.  “Fred Hawn Returns to Fayetteville,” Northwest Arkansas Times, Sept. 13, 1938, p.5.

 It is not clear what Hawn he did in the off season, but a 1939 article in the Fayetteville paper listed him as a referee for a University of Arkansas basketball game. “Arkansas Quint Plays Clothiers Here Tonight.” Northwest Arkansas Times, Feb. 18, 1939, p. 6.

[32]  Player and team statistics for the 1940 and 1941 years can be found at these links:

[33] Carl Kay Bell. “On the 50-Yard Line” (column), Northwest Arkansas Times, March 27, 1941, p. 4. 

[35] W.J. Lemke. “Angel Food” (column), Northwest Arkansas Times, May 5, 1939, p. 8; also see:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branch_Rickey

[36] “Atlantic City Sports Haven Provided Returning Airmen.” Binghamton (NY) Press, July 27, 1944, p. 22.  A shorter version was published in the local paper. “Sgt. Hawn Instructs Men Back From Fronts.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 14, 1955, p. 6.

[37]  Hawn’s influence is mentioned in a recently published book (available as an e-book) by Lew Freedman. Its title is The Boyer Brothers of Baseball.  See https://books.google.com/books?id=aAcyBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA171&lpg=PA171&dq=cloyd+boyer&source=bl&ots=4LdKnEvk3g&sig=_qDGx8--uixMPPUnHotD21T3dKA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAzgKahUKEwij_qPY0IXGAhXHJqwKHROCAJs#v=onepage&q=cloyd%20boyer&f=false
For the roster and statistics of the 1945 Johnson City Cardinals, go to this link: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=0c6a14f7

[39] For example, see “Cards’ Tryout Camp in Council Bluff,” The Daily Iowan, August 27, 1947, p. 2 and see the notice about Hornsby camp in the Northwest Arkansas Times, Feb. 18, 1948, p. 3.

[40] “Recruiter for 24 Years, Fred Hawn Looks for Talent,” Northwest Arkansas Times, April 3, 1967, p. 16 and “Hawn Eyes Another Smith.” Northwest Arkansas Times, July 11, 1961, p. 12.

[41] Newell McDaniel (as told to John Ross). “My bonus boys – Lindy and Von.” The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Sept. 15, 1957, p. 93, 96

Lindy McDaniel tells a similar story about his signing in his “Pitching for the Master” blog, but with a few different details:

[After I got an offer from a Philadelphia scout] I called my dad and told him what the man had said. Dad immediately called Fred Hawn, a Cardinal scout who had been closely following my development. Fred lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He got excited and hopped in his Cardinal Red Ford Thunderbird convertible and rushed to Hollis, Oklahoma to pick up my dad. Then both of them came to Sinton, Texas to see what was going on.

They picked me up at the dorm, we ate a late lunch, and all of us went to the ball park. We arrived about 3 hours before game time. Fred, being an old catcher always carried his catching mitt. He had swarthy, dark complexion, was short and well built, and he offered a good target for my pitches. I threw to him for about 40 minutes or so... Then turning to my dad and me, [Hawn] said, “Lindy, how would you like to try out for the Cardinals?”

[42] “Tulsa Oilers to Honor Veteran Talent Scout.” Northwest Arkansas Times, August 24, 1972, p. 16