Atlanta’s First to the Major Leagues
Written by Gordon Pynes
To establish an Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame one must research as far back as possible to determine some of the first outstanding athletes this East Texas town has produced.
No doubt there have been numerous sports stars and they deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments. Inducting a small number each year will make the competition very difficult.
My initial thoughts have been on finding these first sports figures who laid the foundation for our great athletic traditions. I have found one of these athletes who dates back over a century ago.
In some stories to come I’ll relate several who seem to serve as oldtimers who must be part of our Hall of Fame.
My research has gone back to 1908 when Hubbard Edwin Northen of Atlanta, Texas signed a professional baseball contract to play for a Monroe, Louisiana team.
“Hub”, as he was called, moved up for a stint with Little Rock and in 1910 was brought up to the major leagues with the old St. Louis Browns.
At that time the big leagues only consisted of 16 teams. He then was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for a brief period and in 1911 joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and owner Charlie Ebbets.
He enjoyed two good years with the Dodgers as their centerfielder batting .272 lifetime.
While in New York Hub was involved in several interesting historic events. In 1912 he and his wife, along with the other Dodgers players and wives, went dockside to welcome the survivors of the ill-fated ship, the Titanic, which had struck an iceberg and sunk in the North Atlantic. Later that year during the last days of the baseball season Hub became ill and the Dodgers were forced to call up a player to replace him.
That turned out to be one Casey Stengel who later became a famous manager of the New York Yankees in the 1940’s and 50’s winning a number of World Series victories.
Northen continued his playing career in numerous leagues and teams until 1924. These included seasons with Toronto and Newark in the International League.
He was with three teams in the Texas League, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio.
Another league was the Southern Association where he joined Chattanooga, Mobile and New Orleans. During the offseason in the USA leagues he played in Havana, Cuba. He concluded his long playing days with the Texarkana team.
Following his extensive professional career Hub assumed managerial duties for a number of teams including Shreveport and later was hired as a scout for the Chicago White Sox.
Although on the road for so many years as a player and manager Hub and his family always called Atlanta home where he had been born and raised.
He and his wife Nannie Mae raised two daughters Martha Belcher and Francis Owen. Francis was a lifetime Atlanta resident.
Hub’s grandsons, Butch and Mike Owen are Atlanta High School graduates. Butch has retired here in Atlanta and his brother Mike resides in McKinney.
Hub was tireless in helping local players develop their skills on the diamond and established a baseball instructional school here in Atlanta. Hub was the driving force behind construction of the first baseball park in our town.
Northen loved the game of baseball. He played it well as a centerfielder and first baseman. His entire adult life was spent playing, managing, scouting and promoting the game.
Hubbard Edwin Northen has to be Atlanta’s first outstanding athlete of the 20th century and deserves to lead the way into the Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame.
Hub was born in 1886, passed away in 1947 and is buried in Pinecrest Cemetery.