08/04/2008 11:43 AM ET
Minor League star, Major League artist
'Gentleman Jim' Reeves a star on field and stage
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
In 1939, the National Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown, N.Y., and in 1967, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, inspired by the baseball version, opened in Nashville. In other words, the Grand Old Game and the Grand Ole Opry have gone hand in hand for a long time. In honor of the recent Hall of Fame celebration in Cooperstown, MLB.com/Entertainment went to the Country Hall recently and dug up some interesting connections between country music Hall of Fame members and baseball. Today: Jim Reeves.
NASHVILLE -- Country music fans probably can't imagine what would have happened if Jim Reeves hadn't injured his ankle while working his way up the ladder in the Minor League system of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Reeves might have broken home run records, had candy bars named after him or even ended up in the Hall of Fame.
Well, luckily for those music lovers, Reeves eventually did make a Hall of Fame, but it's the one on Fifth Ave. South in Nashville.
Reeves, who became known to country fans worldwide as "Gentleman Jim," grew up in a rural part of east Texas called Galloway, with baseball on his mind. He starred on his high school baseball team and later earned a full ride to the University of Texas at Austin. Reeves dropped out of school to volunteer for service during World War II, but he was rejected for failing a physical, and eventually ended up back on the baseball field.
There, he chased his diamond dreams once again, playing in the Minors for several summers before the balky ankle ended his athletic career in 1947.
"As is the case with many of the country stars at the Hall of Fame, country music was one of the ways off the farm," says Tina Wright, the Hall's director of media relations. "And in quite a few cases, including that of Jim Reeves, baseball was another."
Reeves had always loved music and appeared on radio at the age of 12, singing and playing guitar. So in 1949, with baseball in his personal rear-view mirror, Reeves first recorded for a Houston-based label and followed it up by signing with Abbott Records three years later.
His famous velvety baritone got him on RCA, which led to membership at the Grand Ole Opry in October 1955. Soon after that coming-out party in Nashville, a flood of hits followed.
Reeves scored smashes with "Four Walls," "Blue Boy," "Billy Bayou," "Home" and "Am I Losing You," managed to cross over to the pop charts, and charted his biggest hit, "He'll Have to Go," in 1959-'60.
Reeves' life was cut far too short in 1964 when he and his manager were tragically killed in a plane crash near Nashville. But his life and musical legacy were honored shortly thereafter when he was enshrined at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967.
Find out more about Jim Reeves by visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.