The Rams’ player/ manager with 2 names

Lou Bevil

Louis Bevilacqua didn’t play for the Anniston Rams. Lou Bevil did. It’s an important distinction.

Louis Bevilacqua was born in Illinois to an immigrant couple from Italy. Lou Bevil played professional baseball for a decade.

Louis Bevilacqua served in the U.S. Army’s 13th Armored Division during World War II. Lou Bevil played briefly for the American League’s Washington Senators in 1942. 

Louis Bevilacqua nearly died in a car accident in Alabama. Lou Bevil was one of the 1950 Rams’ few stars and served as its temporary manager just before the team disbanded for good that summer.

These men, Louis and Lou, are the same fellow. Louis shortened his name to Lou as he progressed through the minor leagues, either for ease’s sake or fear of ethnic discrimination. Whichever name you chose, Lou Bevil is one of the important figures in the story of Anniston’s Southeastern League baseball team, even though he played less than one season in the Model City.

In Anniston, Bevil was valued for his ability to pitch and hit; he’d thrown a no-hitter for Chattanooga and had six seasons in which he hit .290 or higher in the minors. But it was his pitching that took him to the Major Leagues, though with a twist.

Bevil had only played three minor-league seasons when the terrible 1942 Senators promoted him to the show: one in DeLand, Florida, another in Thomasville, Georgia — both Class D teams — and one year in Class A1 Chattanooga (the equivalent to today’s Class AA). His record was a pedestrian 41-48.

Up he went, though. And on Sept. 2, 1942, this future Anniston Ram made his MLB debut in a start against the Chicago White Sox at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. It was an unmitigated disaster.

The Senators lost the first game of that day’s doubleheader, 8-2, and then sent the rookie right-hander to the mound. He may not have broken a sweat.

Bevil gave up a single to leadoff hitter Don Kolloway.

Wally Moses’ triple scored Kolloway.

Val Heim’s single scored Moses, and then Heim stole second base.

Luke Appling walked.

Then Bevil recorded an out — an out! — when Dario Lodigiani bunted the runners along.

So much for prosperity. Bevil then hit Bill Mueller, which loaded the bases.

Skeeter Webb singled to center, scoring Heim and Appling.

Which ended it. Bucky Harris, the Senators’ manager, mercifully yanked Bevil from the game.

His debut line: one-third of an inning pitched (seven batters faced), four runs (all earned), four hits, one walk, one hit batsman, an ERA of 108.00.

“The Sox started the second game with a four-run opening inning, which made a wreck of the big-league introduction of Lou Bevil from Chattanooga,” sportswriter Irving Vaughan wrote the next morning in the Chicago Tribune.

Three more times the Senators used Bevil, all in relief. He ended his brief MLB stay with an 0-1 record, a 6.52 ERA, with 11 walks and two strikeouts in 9.2 innings pitched. He never pitched again in the Majors.

In truth, those were only a few weeks out of Bevil’s 10-year professional baseball career. There’s much more to his baseball background than four games in September 1942. But they did mark an unofficial demarkation of this future Ram’s playing days — his baseball life in Washington before the war ended, and his baseball life in Anniston after the war ended. It was a far cry from the Major Leagues.

It would be unfair to miss this salient point: Bevil rose quickly through the Senators’ system because (a.) he had talent, and (b.) they needed talent, especially when the war siphoned off men and sent them overseas. Bevil eventually became one of those men himself. But even when he joined the Army his baseball prowess earned him headlines.

In 1943, Bevil starred for the camp team while stationed at Camp Beale in Yuba County, California. Because he played for the Senators under his baseball name — not his surname, Bevilacqua — his fellow soldiers didn’t know he had pitched in the Majors “until he reported out for practice with the Beale squad and they got a look at him in action,” the newspaper in Marysville, California, wrote.

Bevil rejoined the Senators’ system when he was discharged in 1946, pitching again for Chattanooga. But he rose no higher, spending the second half of his career with Class D and B teams in Florida and Alabama; in 1947 and 1948 he served as player-manager with Class D Orlando.

Anniston signed Bevil after he posted an impressive 19-11 record with a 2.40 ERA in 1949 at Class D Daytona Beach. (In double duty, he also hit .304 in 1947 and .291 in 1949.) The Rams, coming off a 64-74 year, were positively ecstatic when they signed him in January 1950.

“Southeastern League opponents are likely to get added trouble from both sides of the mound next season when a pair of classy newcomers make their debut with the Anniston Rams,” The Anniston Star newspaper crowed that winter. (The Rams had also signed lefty Lyman Peck.)

The hyperbole didn’t end there. That spring the newspaper described Bevil as “a diversified baseball master from the Florida State circuit” and as “a colorful veteran (who) plays practically every position on the field, and he’s better than average at all of them.” In fact, The Star rambled on, “Bevil’s pitching is only part of his baseball attractiveness.” Why? Because the Rams needed hitters, too.

The 1950 season would be the Rams’ last, though Bevil did what he could. He hit .291 in 56 games and posted a 6-9 record with a 5.60 ERA in 119 innings pitched. And then came June 14.

The Rams were awful. Player-manager Charlie Letchas, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies, quit. Bevil had managing experience, so he got the gig as temporary manager.

Two weeks later, on July 3, Bevil was seriously injured in a car crash that killed three people, including another Rams player, Tony Smeraglia. Bevil broke several ribs, fractured his right arm and returned home in mid-July to Illinois to recuperate.

He never pitched professionally again.

“The popular Ram said before leaving that he had enjoyed his stay here and that he was sorry that baseball couldn’t have been better this season,” The Star reported. “However, Lou was quick to emphasize the fact that the club isn’t nearly as bad as the records show.”

Back as Louis Bevilacqua, the ex-Ram worked for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad in the 1950s. In 1973, he died of cancer and was buried in Lee County, Illinois. He was 51 years old.

And the Rams? It got worse. The day after Bevil’s return to Illinois made the pages of The Star, the Southeastern League announced that the team’s owners had returned the franchise to the league office. The woebegone Rams had run out of money and a late civic fund-raising push had failed. The league ran the team — renamed the Ramblers — for two weeks, forcing it to play all of its games on the road, and then put the team to rest. A few players were sold off to other clubs. Bevil was given his unconditional release.

The Rams played their final game on Tuesday, July 25, at Selma.

They lost, 9-8. A fitting end.

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