George Payne: An Oldie But Goodie!

George PayneHB 001 DIZZY DEAN The great 1931 Houston Buffs will always be remembered as the club that served as Dizzy Dean’s showcase and launching pad to his Hall of Famous baseball career with the fabulous Gashouse Gang, the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals. Dean (far left) posted a 26-10 record with a lights out 1.57 ERA with the ’31 Buffs.

Far fewer, if any, fans remember another fellow who picthed pretty well for the ’31 Buffs, a guy who went by the name of George Payne (shown at the far right in the White Sox uniform). All George Payne did for the ’31 Buffs was rack up a 23-13 record with a 2.75 ERA. So, based alone upon what the stats alone tell us, what’s the big difference between the famous Dean and the forgotten Payne? Not much.

If we look closer at the papers from that era, we won’t have to look far to find all the ink that writers were giving to young Dizzy Dean’s incredible stuff and his brassy attitude about all the great things we was going to accomplish in baseball – and all of this praise and braggadocio was flowing about and from a guy was still only 21 (DOB: 01-16-10) when the Buffs wrapped up the ’31 season.

The 5’11’, 172 lb. righthanded George Payne, by contrast, was 42 years old (DOB: 05-23-89 in Mount Vernon, Kentucky) by the time the 1931 season concluded. In fact, everything George Washington Payne accomplished in the minor leagues were all done as an older player. Why he got such a late start, I have no idea without conducting further research.

My minor league records here at home only go back consistently to 1922. As a result, I’d have to do further external source study to be able to even tell you exactly when Payne started his minor league baseball career. I do know that he broke into the big leagues for his only exposure at that level on May 8, 1920, just fifteen days prior to his 31st birthday. He pitched only 29.3 innings in relief for the ’20 White Sox, compiling a season/MLB personal record of 1-1, with a 5.46 ERA.

My records next pick up George Payne as a pitcher for Class A Little Rock in 1922, where he compilds a mediocre record of 5-6, with a 4.36 ERA.  Over the next eight seasons, however, Payne is in double digits for the win column every time, reaching twenty-plus wins in half of those years. A 28-12 record with Wichita Falls in 1929 eventually lands Payne with Houston in 1930, via a short early stay in the spring with Indianapolis. George Payne went 13-10, with a 3.51 ERA, for the ’30 Buffs. Following his 23-win year in 1931, Payne worked three more years for Houston (1932-34), winning 18, 19, and 13 games. He won 15 and lost 7 for his last double digit win year at Class C Sringfield in 1935. After laying out during the 1936 season, Payne returned for eight more wins over three final years in the lower minors (1937-38, 1940) before hanging ’em up for good at age 51.

George Payne passed away on January 24, 1959 at his hometown of Bellflower, California. He was 70 years old and deserving of respect and some acknowledgement for his accomplishments as a pretty fair country minor league pitcher back in the 1920s and 1930s. He must’ve had some good stuff, but I can’t begin to tell you what he threw or how good he was on pitch command. I just know that he ended up with a pretty impressive bottom line in the win/loss columns. As for being there, I wasn’t. Even I’m not old enough to have been an eyewitness to the 1931 Texas League Champion Houston Buffs.

If you’re a baseball fan, nevertheless, and you’ve never heard of George Payne prior to today, your memory of his name and the accomplishments listed here will do fine. In fact, it will produce more recognition justice for George Payne than the wall of baseball  history has given to him up til now.

ADDENDUM FROM A VALUED CONTRIBUTOR: Tony Cavender, a good frriend and fellow member of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) sent me an article response e-mail that contained information that really neeeds to be added to the George Payne story. – First, I want to say to Tony, and all others, any time you have something to contribute to any of my articles, go ahead and add it as a comment in the section that follows each post. It will be most welcomed!

Here’s what Ton Cavender wanted us to further know about George Payne, based upon data available at the SABR website:

“George Payne won 348 games in the minors, and collected 307 hits in his long minor league career.  He was able to play through the Depression, which must have been a motivator.  I’ll bet that Casey Stengel encountered a lot of guys like this when he started playing ball for Kankakee.”

Thanks, Tony!

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5 Responses to “George Payne: An Oldie But Goodie!”

  1. anthony cavender Says:

    Bill: George Payne pitched for the White Sox just before they became the Black Sox!

  2. Carl Bunch Says:

    G.W.Payne was my great-uncle. His career started in 1914 with the Charleston Seagulls and ended in 1940 with Columbus, Ga. I have collected newspaper articles for every team and game he was in. I also have photographs for some of the teams he played for. In 1913 he was in the Army stationed at Fort Moultrie, Sullivans Island, S.C., playing for the Army team which is how he became a “Seagull”. He also had the minor league record of averaging just 1.5 walks per nine innings pitched.

  3. Carl Bunch Says:

    This link provides a look at his career.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/George_Payne

  4. Terry Payne Says:

    I seen a artical last weekend from the Mount Vernon news paper which stated that George struck out Babe Ruth twice.

  5. MONICA J BONNER Says:

    Great article and follow up…ty! I’m working on my husbands family tree and G.W. Payne was his first cousin 2x removed. Finding information like this is just really neat! Sounds like G.W. was one heck of a pitcher!

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