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Spook Jacobs

Sport: Basbeall

Born: November 4, 1925

Died: February 18, 2011

Town: Salem

Forrest Vandergift Jacobs was born November 4, 1925 in Cheswold, Delaware and grew up in Salem. Quick and coordinated, what he lacked in size and strength he made up for in hustle. His nickname “Spook” came from the odd way he had of swinging hard but hitting soft grounders and fly balls that became hits when fielders flinched or froze when bat met ball. By the time he graduated from Salem High he stood a mere 5’8” and weighed under 150 pounds. He went right into the military after graduation and served in the Pacific theater during World War II. When he returned, he had packed on about 10 pounds of muscle, which improved his strength but not his stature. Fortunately, this was an era when slightly built infielders who could handle the bat were in vogue, and he signed a minor-league contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.

Spook worked his way toward the majors, taking the extra base when it was there, hanging in on double plays SJacobs55toppsand slapping his way to a .300 average. He played winter ball in Panama and won batting titles there in 1949 and 1950. He later played in Cuba, where his walk-off hits won 1953 and 1956 championships. Following the 1953 season, the Philadelphia Athletics claimed Spook from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft and made him their everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter in 1954. He batted .258, drew 60 walks, swiped 17 bases and scored 63 runs for a dreadful offensive ballclub. In 1955, he lost his position to Jim Finigan, who had a little more pop, and spent the bulk of the season at AAA Columbus, where he was named the International League’s top second baseman.

The A’s dealt Spook to the Pirates during the 1956 season. Manager Bobby Bragan—who had managed him in Cuba—decided he’d rather have teenager Bill Mazeroski at second and Spook was shipped to the minors. With the exception of a brief September call-up in ’56, he spent the remainder of his baseball career in the minors, retiring in 1960 at the age of 34. His major-league average in 1888 big-league games was .247, while he hit exactly .300 in more than 1,700 minor-league games. Asked countless times how he was able to “spook” the ball over the infielders, he could never explain it, adding “that’s just something that I did.”

After baseball, Spook lived in Delaware, where he ran a couple of successful businesses, including a donut shop. He used some of his profits to build a major stamp collection, which was featured in a 2008 exhibit at the Hall of Fame called Mail It Home. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 85.



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