Joe Sewell

Sewell was famous for something he didn’t do a lot – strike out. In 14 big league seasons he fanned only 114 times, or once for every 62 official at-bats. For much of his career he used a heavy bat that was a gift from teammate George Burns during the 1920 World Series. It was called “Black Betsy.” Sewell fashioned a career .312 average using Betsy, which can now be seen on the campus of the University of Alabama, where Joe donated it many years later. Sewell loved that bat and he took special care if it. “I boned it every day and I rubbed it with plug-cut tobacco,” he said.

  • With the Yankees in 1932, Sewell had one of his finest games when he went 5-for-5 with a home run against Lefty Grove. The temperamental Philadelphia pitcher was so irritated that he tossed his glove in the air after Sewell went deep. “Thanks, kid,” teammate Babe Ruth told Sewell, “for picking up me and Lou Gehrig.”
  • Was head baseball coach at the University of Alabama from 1964-1969, and the stadium there is named for him, affectionately called “The Joe” by students.
  • Sewell lettered in football for the Crimson Tide in 1917, 1918, and 1919.
  • Got his break with the Cleveland Indians when Ray Chapman was killed by a pitch from Carl Mays in August of 1920. Sewell’s contract was purchased from New Orleans and he proceeded to hit .329 in 22 games down the stretch to help the Tribe to the pennant.
  • His youngest brother Tommy Sewell was an infielder who played just one game in the majors for the Cubs in 1927 and spent several years in the minors.
  • Younger brother Luke Sewell was his teammate with the Indians for nine seasons, from 1921-1929. Luke was a very good defensive catcher and he played 20 years in the major leagues, earning one All-Star selection and MVP votes in four seasons. from 1930-33, Joe and Luke faced each other as opponents, Joe with the Yanks and Luke with Cleveland and the Senators.
  • Joe was the cousin of pitcher Truett “Rip” Sewell, who won 143 games and twice won 21 in a season, all for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Joe, Luke, and Rip Sewell all received votes for the Hall of Fame.