Spook Jacobs, Dead at 85

At 5'8", 155 lbs., Spook Jacobs needed paper weights in his shoes to hold down 2nd base on windy days.

Former MLB second baseman Forest Vandergrift “Spook” Jacobs is dead at age 85. Spook passed away at the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford, Delaware on February 18, 2011 following a period of failing health. Spook had lost his wife, Bobbi, at the same facility last summer after fifty-five years of marriage and had been in decline since her death. The couple is survived by their two sons and grandchildren.

The former infielder for the Kansas City Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates (1954-1956) had been a favorite of mine since his playing days with the Fort Worth Cats in 1953 – and in spite of the fact that he represented the opposition to my hometown Houston Buffs. Spook was the kind of guy I always hoped my Buffs would find a way to acquire because of his scrappy, hustling, never-say-die attitude on the field. In that regard, Jacobs stood as tall as anyone on the field.

It just didn’t happen. Jacobs moved up to the big leagues for a brief three-year spin in 1954, but it wasn’t with the  parents Dodgers. They dealt over to the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League in 1954, who then moved to Kansas City in 1955 as the next step in their gradual move to Oakland and the West Coast.

Jacobs got his nickname “Spook” for his uncanny ability to bop a few weak balls over the heads of infielders for Texas League singles. I can only tell you where I think the “spook” aspect comes into this description from what I saw as a fan at Buff Stadium. Our fan reaction from the stands was bad enough. I can only imagine as an old outfielder myself how it looked from the field.

Sometimes Jacobs could unload a sound on a batted ball that made it seem that he had just taken one over the fence. You could even see the fielders flinch back in first reaction before the visual reality of the ball’s arc became apparent: Infielders held their ground and turned to watch the ball in play; outfielders headed back on the side where they first thought the ball was hit.

Then came the visual reality: The ball was going to do well to even clear the infield. Suddenly, infielders had to peddle back fast to try to make the play. Outfielders in play, if they even had the chance, had to hustle forward in the hope that their first moves back not made them look too silly. Then, more often than not, the ball would drop in for a bloop hit, just out of reach from the “spooked” fielders.

It was a good enough act to get Spook Jacobs to the big time for a short while. He had no power, but plenty  of game. Jacobs broke into the majors for the first time at age 28 on April 13, 1954. In that first game, Jacobs did something no other major leaguer had done before him. He reached base on hits in the first four times he came to bat as a big leaguer. The performance would not be repeated until years later, when Delino DeShields broke into the big leagues and did the same act. Amazingly, DeShields was also a Delaware native.

Bobbi and Spook Jacobs

After three seasons with the Athletics and Pirates, Jacobs left the majors with a .247 career MLB batting average that included no home runs. He continued playing minor league ball through 1960, ending a 14-season minor league career (1946-1953, 1957-1960) with an impressive .300 batting average. His 6,537 minor league at bats included only 9 home runs. The man just wasn’t born to be a banger.

About 2003, I finally had a chance to meet Spook Jacobs at a baseball dinner in St. Louis. We spent a pleasant evening in conversation about many things, including his ability to “spook” that ball over the infield. “I have no explanation for it,” Jacobs said. “It was just one of those things that I did.”

Oh well. It was good enough to buy Spook Jacobs a ticket to the majors. It was good enough, also, to get Spook selected for the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Jacobs was born in Cheswold, Delaware on November 11, 1925.

I’m just glad I got to spend an evening with the man. Forest “Spook’ Jacobs was a very nice guy to spend time with – and he never seemed to run out of either breath or baseball stories.

Rest in peace, Spook Jacobs. Amidst all the big names of 1950s baseball that are now passing, we shall miss you too.

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3 Responses to “Spook Jacobs, Dead at 85”

  1. Sumner Hunnewell Says:

    Bill Bozman spoke of nothing but good things about Spook, who was also an avid baseball stamp collector. We need more 5’8″ players in major league baseball…

  2. David Munger Says:

    Dad and Spook were teammates in Pittsburgh and in the PCL, he was
    impressed with his tenacity on the field and with the stick. I know
    you play with the cards you’re dealt, but with only 16 Major League Teams at the time, there were alot of Minor League players who would
    be enjoying the good life now.

  3. Spook | Trends Pics Says:

    […] Spook passed away at the bill37mccurdy.wordpress.com […]

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