Peaches’ championship team reaches 50th anniversary

bobbypope428@gmail.comJuly 2, 2012 

Fifty years ago today, on July 3, 1962, Duane Richards, a 6-foot-4, hard-throwing right hander, recorded the first no-hitter of the South Atlantic League season to lead the Macon Peaches to a 4-0 win over the Portsmouth Tides at Luther Williams Field.

Richards struck out 10 and walked 4 and got all the offensive help he needed from Pete Rose, Art Shamsky and Tommy Helms, who each had two hits that night. Included in Rose’s totals was an RBI triple.

That Cincinnati Reds farm club is probably the most remembered team to ever play in Macon, even surpassing the Braves’ farm teams in their decade-plus stay during the 1990s and early 2000s. That was also the last Macon professional team, in any sport, to win a championship.

The Peaches actually finished third in regular-season play with an 80-59 record, 12 games behind Savannah and Lynchburg and five behind second-place Knoxville, but it was good enough to qualify for the playoffs.

In the first round, Macon swept Savannah in three games in the best-of-five series. Then, in the championship series, also a best-of-five, the Peaches went 3-1 against Knoxville to claim the title.

In the series-clinching win, Macon beat the Smokies 21-3, with Rose recording a grand slam.

Macon led the league in 1962 in attendance, attracting 100,035 fans during the season

Richards had a brief stay in the big leagues before that no-hitter. He pitched a total of three innings in two games during the 1960 season, and he never made another appearance in the big show.

The starting lineup that night consisted of Helms at short, Teo Acosta in center, Rose at second, Mel Queen at third, Shamsky in left, Larry Himes at catcher, Miles McWilliams at first and Don Dobbek in right. Of that lineup, only Acosta, Himes and McWilliams failed to make it to the big leagues.

Rose and Helms easily were the most successful. Rose went directly from Macon to the Reds in 1963, where he won NL Rookie of the Year honors. During his career, he was a 17-time all-star, an NL MVP, won three batting titles, played on three world championship teams and was named to Major League Baseball’s all-century team. And he is baseball’s all-time hit king with 4,256 hits.

Helms, who was MVP of the 1962 team in a vote of the players, was NL Rookie of the Year in 1966 and was an all-star in both 1967 and 1968. He hit the first home run in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. He was part of a seven-player trade in 1971 that sent him to Houston, with the Reds getting future hall of famer Joe Morgan.

Shamsky, who was Rose’s roommate in Macon, spent eight years in the big leagues. His biggest accomplishment was a game in which he hit three home runs after entering the contest in the eighth inning. A member of the 1969 Miracle Mets world championship team, Shamsky finished his career with 68 homers.

Dave Bristol, the skipper in Macon in both 1962 and 1963, also advanced to the majors. His 11-year managerial career included stops in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Atlanta and San Francisco. The Macon native was with the Braves from 1976-77.

Atlanta owner Ted Turner replaced Bristol with himself as the Braves’ manager for one game in the 1977 season before commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and informed Turner that baseball’s rules prevented owners from managing. Bristol was reinstated for the next game.

Affiliated minor league baseball hasn’t been played in Macon since the Braves left for Rome following the 2002 season. Wouldn’t it be great to have a team like that 1962 squad in Macon today?

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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