Happy Birthday, Jim (Buzz) Busby!

Jim Busby was a Battle Creek area baseball legend who got a brief tryout with the Indianapolis A.B.C.s of the Negro National League in 1933.

James Alfred Busby, Jr. was born November 28, 1900 to James Alfred and Sarah (Reed) Busby in Benton Harbor, Michigan. (His obituary said he was born in 1902, his gravestone says 1901, and the obituary and some documents list his birthdate as November 26 or November 27.) His father was a laborer and fireman at a Benton Harbor foundry for much of his adult life; they had eight children and James, Jr. was the fifth to arrive. At least one US Census record noted that both of James’ parents were of mixed race backgrounds.

Busby played baseball at Central Junior High and for the Battle Creek High School Bearcats, earning local plaudits. However, he made his mark as an amateur baseball player when he lived and worked in Battle Creek, Michigan. There, Busby played at least fourteen seasons in various class level recreational leagues starting in about 1927. Nicknamed Buzz, Busby was a tall and lanky player who played every position on the field, though his most frequent position was likely shortstop or third base. He had a number of spectacular seasons in Battle Creek, including a 1932 season where he hit .459 – earning a tryout with the Indianapolis A.B.C.s and Cleveland Giants in exhibition games.

Jim Taylor, described as the “roly-poly” manager for Indianapolis, liked the raw athletic skills, but figured that Busby needed seasoning. “(Taylor) “…was particularly pleased with the looks of Jim Busby, gangling, terrificly {sic} hitting all-’round star of Columbia Cleaners, who has maintained a batting average above and around .500 all season in class A recreational league. Taylor believes Busby a ‘comer’ but admits he needs lots of experience and training under capable tutorship of a manager who could successfully develop his natural ability.”

In 1933, Taylor sent travel funds and Busby joined the Indianapolis A.B.C.s, where he would appear in at least two official league games and likely other exhibitions – but failed to make a mark. He was, of course, at least 32 years old even though one paper said he was 21 (!) at the time he got his tryout. In eight official at bats, Busby had two hits and drove in a run. Busby returned to Battle Creek for the rest of the decade, once even hitting .467 for Columbia Cleaners.

Busby never had children, but he did have three wives. He married Cecil Russell in 1923, but she filed for divorce for non-support six months later. In 1928, Busby married Minnie Lee Smith, and they remained married for much of the 1930s and maybe later. When he passed away in 1960 he was married to a young lady named Yvonne.

As a young man, Busby worked at a foundry – just like his father. After, 1940, though, Busby headed east. For a while he was a butler at a fraternity in Philadelphia, and when he died on October 2, 1960, he was living in Clinton, New Jersey. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Clinton a few days later.

Sources:

1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 US Censuses
World War II Registration Card
MI Marriage and Divorce Records
SS Claims Index

Baseball Reference.com
FindaGrave.com

“The Sport Outlook,” Battle Creek Enquirer, July 27, 1932: 8.
“Colubmia Cleaners Win Over Hastings Nine, 4 – 1,” Battle Creek Enquirer, September 23, 1932: 20.
“The Sport Outlook,” Battle Creek Enquirer, July 27, 1932: 8.
“Cleveland Club Opposes Postum,” Battle Creek Enquirer, July 27, 1932: 8.
“Busby Will Get Trial With Famous A.B.C’s,” Battle Creek Enquirer, Aprl 23, 1933: 15.
“Home Run Parade,” Battle Creek Enquirer, August 1, 1937: 10.
“Player of Week Busby Veteran of 13 seasons in Recreation Leagues,” Battle Creek Enquirer, June 25, 1940: 15.

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