Joe Tipton Biography – 2013 FCSHOF Inductee
Joe Tipton was born on February 18, 1922 in a house that was practically on the Tennessee-Georgia border. His birth was in Copperhill, Tennessee. When Joe was a very small boy his family moved a few miles south into a Georgia community that the locals refer to as Vellenorthtown, just outside of McCaysville. Joe would grow up there and make his home in that hamlet until his retirement from professional baseball over 30 years later.
Joe was the youngest of 5 boys in the Tipton household (two daughters would come along later). All of the boys were very athletic but Joe was the one who made the big-time. Brother Earl had a shot at professional baseball but a serious injury ended his pro career almost before it started. Joe was outstanding at all sports but baseball was his first love. He grew up in an age when baseball was truly the ‘National Pasttime’.
Joe attended high school at Epworth, a few miles further south in Georgia, and at Copperhill High School in Tennessee for one year, his sophomore year 1938-39. All of his brothers, Earl, J.B., Perry and Dwight, had been basketball and football stars at that school. During his one year, Joe was elected Vice President of his class and was the outstanding player on both the school football and basketball teams. The football team was not very good and scored only 5 touchdowns all year. Joe ran or passed for all five. The basketball team was a little better but Joe was the only player from the team selected to the all-tournament squad in the big event of the year, the Tri-State League Tournament.
From the age of 15, Tipton had been one of the best players in the semi-pro teams in the area. He probably realized that baseball was his ticket to success and in the summer of 1940, along with his brother Dwight, Joe headed to the Rome, Georgia area to play in the Northwest Georgia Textile Industrial League, a very strong semi-pro baseball circuit. Joe could play anywhere on the diamond, but shortstop and catcher were his best positions. He had a good season with the Brighton Mills team in Shannon and was named to the Textile League all-star team for the 1940 season. Joe’s accomplishments and ability were soon noticed by the Cleveland Indians organization.
The Indians had a scout named Art Decatur who lived in Talladega, Alabama. Decatur contacted Joe and persuaded him to come over to Talladega for a few weeks in the late summer of 1940 to play for a semi-pro team there. Decatur wanted to watch Joe play for an extended period of time before recommending that the Indians sign him to a contract. It did not take long for Decatur to become convinced that Joe was Major League material and he signed Joe to a professional contract with the Cleveland Indians.
After spring training in 1941, the Indians assigned Tipton to Appleton, Wisconsin of the Wisconsin State League where he hit .298 and was promoted to the Flint, Michigan squad toward the end of the season. In 1942 he was promoted again, this time to the Charleston, West Virginia team in the Mid-Atlantic League. He batted .313 at Charleston and appeared to be on his way until Uncle Sam came calling.
Joe served in the Navy during the 1943,44 and 45 seasons so he lost three seasons in his prime to World War II. After the war, however, Joe resumed his journey to the Big Leagues with stops at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1946 and Wilkes-Barre of the Eastern League in 1947. It was at Wilkes-Barre that Joe enjoyed his greatest success to date by leading the Eastern League in batting with a lusty .375 average.
Joe was on the roster of the Cleveland Indians in April, 1948 and would remain in the Major Leagues for the next seven years. In his rookie season of 1948, the Cleveland Indians won the American League pennant and faced the Boston Braves in the World Series. So in Joe’s first year in the Majors, he appeared in the World Series.
During the next seven years Tipton would play for the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators, in addition to the Indians. He announced his retirement from baseball after the 1954 season. He returned to play with the Memphis Chicks of the Southern Association in 1955 at the request of General Manager Frank Lane of the Chicago White Sox. Lane wanted a veteran with Joe’s experience to work with the young pitchers and catchers at Memphis, a White Sox farm club.
Joe was out of baseball during the 1956 season. He purchased a service station in McCaysville and settled down to run that business and to spend a lot of time at his favorite activity, hunting in the mountains in the Fannin/Basin area. The lure of baseball was strong, however, and Joe returned to play with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association in 1957. He then managed Panama City of the Alabama-Florida League in 1958 before retiring for good.
Joe Tipton was respected as one of the finest defensive catchers in the Major Leagues. He was valued for his leadership and his ability to work with pitchers. He was very savvy, always in tune with the situation on the field, knowledgeable about the weaknesses of hitters, and his pitchers relied on him heavily for guidance during game situations.
Joe was perhaps most famous, however, for his constant chatter during games. He was truly a funny man and distracted more than one hitter with his repartee. He was particularly distracting to the great Ted Williams, who was very intense in his approach to hitting. Williams was reported as saying to Joe: “If I’m in Boston again next year, I’m going to ask Joe Cronin to buy you to get you out of my hair”.
After retiring from baseball, Joe moved his family to the Birmingham, Alabama area where he lived the remainder of his life. Joe Tipton died in Birmingham on March 1, 1994.
Joe Tipton lived the dream of every young man growing up in his generation. He caught a fastball from Bob Feller, was managed by the great Connie Mack, toured Japan with Lefty O’Doul as an ambassador for American baseball, was behind the plate with Joe DiMaggio batting and smelled the freshly mown grass at Yankee Stadium. It was pretty heady stuff for a kid from Fannin County. The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is honored to include Joe Tipton in the inaugural class of 2013.
JOE TIPTON, FORMER TEXTILE LEAGUE ALL-STAR INDUCTED INTO THE FANNIN COUNTY SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Most Rome citizens know at least something about the Northwest Georgia Textile Industrial League that flourished in the Rome and surrounding towns from 1931 through the mid-1950s. Joe Tipton, was a league all-star catcher for Brighton Mills in Shannon in 1940. Tipton, along with 11 other individuals and one entire team, were formally inducted into the Hall at a banquet at the Fannin County High School cafeteria in Blue Ridge on April 13. Many of Tipton’s relatives, including his sister and daughter attended the event.
In 1940 Tipton left his home in McCaysville (he was born in Copperhill TN) to journey to Rome for his first attempt to play baseball for money rather than fun. He quickly won a starting position with the Brighton team in Shannon and hit a lusty .308 for the season. He was selected to start in the All-Star game between the league-leading Lindale Pepperells vs. the All-Stars from the other teams in the League at Tubize Park in early August. Fate intervened, however, and a scout by the name of Art Decatur had heard about Joe’s baseball prowess and wanted to check him out as a prospect for the Cleveland Indians of the American League.
Decatur whisked Tipton away from Rome to Talladega, Alabama to put him through his paces for an amateur team there. Tipton passed the tests, and was signed to a contract and began his professional career in the Indians organization the following year. Joe was replaced in the Textile League All-Star team lineup by Charlie Knowles of Rockmart.
Tipton went on to play seven years in the Major Leagues for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics, and Washington Senators from 1948-1954. His journey to the big leagues started just north of Rome Georgia.
This article was written by Buss Walker and appeared in the December 19, 1951 issue of The Sporting News.
Home Folks Shower Tipton;
Gift Bird Dog Big Surprise
Copperhill, Tenn.—Joe Tipton has a new bird dog. The catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics also has a lot of new house furnishings, not to mention a touch of writer’s cramp.
It all came through the thoughtfulness of Joe’s fellow citizens of the twin cities of the copper basin—Copperhill, Tenn., and McCaysville, Ga.
Folks over here in the basin are redhot baseball fans, and they’re right proud of their major league catcher. So, when it was learned that Joe would be coming home last week from Japan, where he’d barnstormed with Lefty O’Doul’s club, someone suggested that the home folks have a homecoming day for him.
Men behind the move were Ernest Adams, Rev. W. H. Heard, Publisher Frank Middleton and the mayors of the twin cities, Millard Cline of McCaysville and W.P. Terry of Copperhill. The entire community turned in and did its part.
Space limited tickets to the banquet to 165. They were sold out almost before they were put on sale, and donations for gifts rolled in. A fan with a hobby turned out 165 eight-inch bats on his small lathe, for favors. Publisher Middleton did himself proud on special menus for place cards. And Joe got writer’s cramp autographing both the bats and the menus for the guests.
The dinner and the reception were held at Copperhill High School. Gifts included just about everything that a young couple could use in furnishing a new cottage—living room suite, dining room suite, cabinet, electric water heater, lamps galore and no end of personal gifts, including golden twin keys to the twin cities, presented jointly by the two mayors.
Then came the big gift for Joe, a gift that left him almost speechless. Joe had been hunting in North Carolina with a Llewellin Setter named Ike, borrowed from a friend over there. Joe had become attached to the dog and for three years had been trying to buy it, but the owner had refused to even consider his top offer of $300 for the dog.
The committee decided to try to buy Ike. They made the trip to North Carolina, explained to the dog owner, who agreed to sell for the $300 he’d formerly refused. The owner then turned $50 of the amount back to go toward others gifts for Joe.
The big gift was kept a secret until the last minute, when Ike was led down the auditorium aisle by two tiny McCaysville majorettes, up on the stage and the leash placed in Joe’s hand.
When Joe saw the setter being brought down the aisle, his mouth dropped open and his face began to shine. With the leash in his hand, he dropped to a knee, placed an arm around the dog’s neck and hugged him right in front of the full house. But when, a moment later, he tried to say a word of thanks, the big palooka choked up and could hardly get out a word.
TIPTON, JOSEPH HICKS: Newspaper Obituary and Death Notice
Birmingham News (AL) – March 1, 1994
TIPTON, JOSEPH HICKS , age 72, of Pleasant Grove, died March 1, 1994. He was a member of Bethel Baptist Church, retired professional baseball player, 1948 World Series for Cleveland Indians. Funeral service will be held 1:00pm Thursday, March 3, 1994 at Brown Service West Chapel with burial in Pleasant Grove Methodist Cemetery, Brown Service West Funeral Home directing. Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Reva Tipton of Pleasant Grove; a daughter, Mrs. Kathryn Tipton Burkes of Athens, Ga., two sons, Mr. Charles F. Tipton of Woodstock and Mr. Barry D. Tipton of Pelham; two sisters, Mrs. Dot Hardemen of McCaysville, Ga. and Mrs. Mildred Ledford of Marietta, Ga.; one brother, Mr. J.B. Tipton of Arlington, Va.
FCSHOF-Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame 2013 Inductee Joe Tipton