History

Granny Hamner: More Than Baseball



Image result for Granny Hamner

Granny Hamner

Granville Wilbur Hamner was my great grandfather. I volunteered to write this article so I could learn more not only about him as a player but as a person as well. The first thing I learned was that he hated the nickname “Granny”. When it came to nicknames his preference was the name his family referred to him by, “Ham”. Out of respect for my readers I’ll stick with Granny.

Hamner was a quiet kid from the streets of Richmond, Virginia. He attended Benedictine high school and loved playing sports both inside and outside of school. When he wasn’t playing sports he sang as a member of his local church choir. He met and married Shirley (my great grandmother) at a very young age and she remained his best friend until the day she died. The two of them would spend every Sunday off the field having a cup of strong black coffee and doing the New York Times crossword puzzle together, always trying to expand their vocabularies. When Shirley died, their daughter Pat assumed the role of Granny’s crossword partner.

Like many public figures, there were sides of Granny Hamner. There was Granny – all about baseball, big cities, the fans, writers, managers, injuries, slumps and pressure. The other man was “Ham”. Ham prioritized home, Shirley and his children, family, friends, fishing, hunting and relaxing. I would have loved to have met either side of my great grandfather, but I find solace in knowing the legacy of Granny lives on in Phillies history.

Granny Hamner was not the only one in the Hamner family pursuing baseball – his older brother Garvin Hamner was after the same dream. Much like Granny, Garvin loved baseball and most times you could find them together in the street or a local sandlot playing with other neighborhood kids. Garvin made it to the Major Leagues even though he spent most of his time in the minors. He would play next to his brother on the Phillies for 21 games in the 1945 season. Those were the only games Garvin would play in the Major Leagues.

Granny Hamner was a shortstop who played 16 years for the Philadelphia Phillies. Hamner was the 6th Phillie ever to be inducted to the Phillies wall of fame and came in at number 64 on the Phillies Nation list of top 100 franchise players. Although he spent most of his time at shortstop he had the ability to play all over the diamond. He would even appear as a pitcher over the course of his career.  He was a 3-time All-Star and was part of a Phillies team that is considered one of the greatest in team history. While his numbers wouldn’t jump out as “Hall of Fame” worthy it doesn’t take a genius to see he was a great ball player.

Teammate and Phillies-legend Curt Simmons noted about Hamner in an exclusive interview with Phillies Nation:

“A real good hitter. A clutch hitter. Good fielder with a good arm. A real rough, tough guy. He was one of our stars in those days.”

Hamner was an almost automatic .260+ hitter, he regularly would rack up over 150 hits over the course of a season with less then 50 strikeouts (with one exception; 1952).  He played in 1,531 games and finished with 1,529 hits, almost a hit per game, something that every body would love to have on their team to this day. But what Hamner was really good at was playing the field. He posted a career .955 fielding percentage.

From the 1944 season until the 1947 season Granny only played in 39 games for the Phillies and struggled while he was with the team; switching numbers and moving to a new place on the diamond almost every time he was recalled.

By the start of the 1950 season the Phillies looked like the team to beat and would be challenging for a title with a young core of Hamner, Ashburn, Ennis and Jones in the field backing up the two aces Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons. All under the age of 25, these six players formed the core of the Whiz Kids. They would go on to win 91 games and finish first in the National League. Hamner, in just his third full season, would play a career high 157 games and participate in the 1950 World Series. They faced the New York Yankees in just the second World Series appearance in team history (first one came in 1915 against the Boston Red Sox). The Yankees as always were lined with superstar players in the field. Highlighted by guys such as Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio; they were an offensive power house and swept the Whiz Kids. Hamner would never return to a World Series.

However, Hamner would play 8 more seasons with the Phillies having stellar numbers and would receive MVP considerations 6 times over the course of his career. Hamner is listed among all-time best Phillies shortstops. His numbers not only stand up with names like Jimmy Rollins and Larry Bowa but they’re not far off some of the greatest shortstops ever to play the game.  Note his comparisons against some of the best:

Shortstop Average Hits OPS Fielding % WAR
Granny Hamner .262 1,529 .686 .955 19.0
Jimmy Rollins .264 2,455 .743 .983 46.3
Larry Bowa .260 2,191 .620 .980 22.8
Ernie Banks .274 2,583 .830 .986 67.5
Cal Ripken Jr. .276 3,184 .788 .977 95.4
Derek Jeter .310 3,465 .817 .976 72.3
Ozzie Smith .262 2,460 .666 .978 76.9

 

Overall Granny Hamner should be remembered not just as one of the greatest Phillies of All-Time but as one of the greatest shortstops ever to play the game.

I would like to give a special thank you to my aunt Pat Hamner-Ambrosius for her help with writing this article. I would also like to thank Brian Michael, Ian Riccaboni and my Mom for both knowingly and unknowingly assisting me with the article along the way.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Ken Bland

    April 8, 2018 at 10:15 am

    People my age, which we’ll call Gen X plus easily spot incidents where youth think the world started the day they became aware of things. Truth be told, my contemporaries and I were no different. So I only know of Granny from the record, but it was always pretty positive. He was the standard by which Bowa was compared, but remaining in the public eye has placed Bowa a lot more visible as Rollins came along. So this was good stuff to read and led me to discover that Hamner had 6 hits in 14 ABs V the Yanks in the ’50 Series.

    Also uncovered this that you may have in your research, assume wou will, or did enjoy it.

    http://www.nj.com/south-jersey-voices/index.ssf/2014/03/bob_shryock_with_phils_season.html

  2. Mike Fassano

    April 8, 2018 at 11:16 am

    I remember Granny well. He was a good player and person. As a kid I stood outside the players entrance after games and got all the Phillies autographs. Granny, Del, and Richie were my favorites.

  3. Jennifer Small

    April 8, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I know this article was hard for you to write. But, as always the effort you put in shows. I am extremely proud of you and of the blood that runs through our veins. Pop would have been proud.

  4. lou possehl

    April 8, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    Mathew – As an 8-year-old growing up in Utica, NY, I certainly remember your great granddad – as well as Ashburn, Lopata, Sawyer, and others. It was that Eastern League bunch of stalwarts – along with rightie Lou Possehl – that made me a Phillies fan for life.

    Those young guys were the backbone of the 1950 Whiz Kids team that was swept in the WS by a Yankee team stocked with HOFers. The Kids, nevertheless, showed up. Deprived of star leftie Curt Simmons because of military call-up, they lost in four tight games by scores of 1-0 (reliever Konstanty as starter pitching a great 8 innings), 2-1 in 10 innings (Roberts the starter), 3-2, and 5-2. Holding that Yankee lineup to 11 runs and 7.5 hits per game – even without Simmons – should have been good enough for a victory or two. Would a rotation that included Simmons as well as Roberts changed the outcome? One recalls the old adage (by now all the adages I recall are, by definition, “old”), “Spahn, Sain, and a day of rain.” What if the Phillies could have gone with a rotation of Roberts, Simmons, Konstanty, and back to Roberts? Would the Phillies have done a number on the Yankees similar to what the Dodgers did some years later, with a rotation of Koufax, Drysdale and Podres?

    Probably not if the Phillies couldn’t hit Yankee pitching any better as they did. But that wasn’t Hamner’s fault, as pointed out by Ken Bland, with your great granddad going 8-for-14.

    The advent of today’s “new and improved” Phillies evokes, for me, many nice recollections of earlier times and what was the Phillies version of “The Boys of Summer”. Indeed, I think that today’s Phillies should be referred to as “Whiz Kids II”. And as to that crossword puzzle “quality time” your great granddad spent with his wife – that’s exactly what my wife and I do on Sundays, dictionary always at the ready.

    Thank you for your article. “Granny Hamner” is a name that I’ve remembered with fondness for some 71 years now, and will continue to do so for the next 71 or so.

    Lou

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Phillies Nation has been bringing Phillies fans together since 2004 with non-stop news, analysis, trade rumors, trips, t-shirts, and other fun stuff!

Browse the Archives

Browse by Category

Copyright Phillies Nation, LLC 2004-2018
Not Affiliated with Major League Baseball or the Philadelphia Phillies

To Top