Matt Batts

Matthew Daniel "Matt" Batts (October 16, 1921 – July 14, 2013) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) catcher who played from 1947 through 1956 for the Boston Red Sox (1947–1951), St. Louis Browns (1951), Detroit Tigers (1952–1954), Chicago White Sox (1954) and Cincinnati Reds (1955–1956), with brief trades to Baltimore and Cleveland.

Growing up in the sandlots of San Antonio, Batts batted and threw right-handed with exceptional speed. But in a fluke position change up, he found his niche behind the plate on a semipro team. Batts excelled as a freshman at Baylor University and was recruited by Red Sox scouts. However, in 1942 when he signed with Boston in exchange for paying his tuition, the Baylor team dropped him. He would later be inducted into Baylor's Hall of Fame. Batts joined the Army Air Corps for the duration of World War II, moving then to Boston where he debuted on September 10, 1947, by cracking a homer on his first Major League at-bat. A slap hitter and competent defensive catcher, Batts played mostly backup roles over the course of his career. He was the starting catcher for the Detroit Tigers in 1953, appearing in 116 games while hitting .278 with a .985 fielding percentage in 514 chances.

In 1951, Batts helped break the color barrier by being among the first white catchers teamed with the American League's first black pitcher Satchel Paige.

On August 25, 1952, Batts, playing for the Tigers, caught the second of pitcher Virgil Trucks' two no-hitters only the third Major League pitcher at that point to do so in a single season. Batts' last game was May 8, 1956, catching for Cincinnati. In a ten-season career, Batts was a .269 hitter with 26 home runs and 219 runs batted in in 546 games played.

After his Major League career, Batts and his wife Arleene moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after fans recruited him to coach baseball clinics and the sheriff recruited him to help with juvenile crime problems. The Batts started a successful printing company, donating programs and tickets to baseball clinics as well as Louisiana State University baseball. Batts died at his home in Baton Rouge in 2013 at the age of 91.

He was also the uncle of former major leaguer Danny Heep.

By Dean Hanley

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