Lucius Benjamin “Luke” Appling (April 2, 1907 – January 3, 1991), nicknamed “Old Aches and Pains” was an American shortstop in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Chicago White Sox (1930–50). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.
Born in North Carolina, Appling briefly attended Oglethorpe College. He was signed by the minor league Atlanta Crackers in 1930 and debuted with the Chicago White Sox later that year. He interrupted his career to serve in World War II in 1944 and 1945. He played for Chicago until 1950, then was a minor league manager and major league coach for many years. He served one stint as an interim major league manager in 1967. He died in Georgia in 1991.
Appling hit .317 in 1937 as the White Sox finished in third place in the AL. Appling played in 81 games in 1938; he missed much of the season with a broken leg. In 1940, Appling hit .348 with a career-high 13 triples. Although the team finished fourth, they came closer to a league championship than at any point in his career, eight games behind the league champions. Appling won another batting title in 1943 with a .328 average and also led the league in OBP that year (.419)
Appling missed the 1944 season due to military service and returned in time to play only 18 games the next year. He hit .309 in 149 games in 1946. Though his seventh and final All-Star Game selection came in 1947 when he hit .306, Appling hit .314 and .301 in 1948 and 1949, respectively.Appling had remained a solid contributor into his forties, but White Sox ownership was dedicated to a youth movement and he retired after the 1950 season.
From Baseball in Wartime:
Lucius B “Luke” Appling was born in High Point, North Carolina on April 2, 1907. He played football and baseball at Fulton High School in Atlanta, Georgia and attended Oglethorpe College, but left during his sophomore year when he was signed by the Southern League Atlanta Crackers in 1930. He was a good hitter and the White Sox purchased him from the Crackers for $20,000.
Appling led the American League with a .388 batting average in 1936 and again in 1943 with a .328 average.
When Appling entered military service with the Army in January 1944, his wife, Fay, felt optimism for all. “The war will soon be over,” she told reporters, “because outside of baseball, Luke never held a job for over two weeks.” Appling himself commented that “ducking bullets can’t be much worse than ducking some of those bad hops in the infield.”
Appling reported to Camp Lee, Virginia for basic training. At the time, most people believed it hailed the end of the 36 year-old’s baseball career. In mid-March 1944, it was announced by Lieutenant Arthur P Hand, camp athletics officer that Appling would manage and play shortstop for the Camp Lee Travelers baseball team. However, on March 31, he was reassigned to the reconditioning service at Lawson General Hospital near Atlanta, Georgia. Appling reported for practice with Lawson’s baseball team shortly after arriving and was the team’s mainstay for two seasons.
On August 30, 1945, Appling was discharged under the rule releasing men over 38. Vice President Garry Grabiner of the Chicago White Sox said “we certainly can use him. I hope he’s ready to play when he gets here.”
Appling made it in time to appear in 18 games for the White Sox and batted .368. He remained in the major leagues until 1950.
Appling was a successful minor league manager after his playing days were over, winning pennants with Memphis in the Southern Association and Indianapolis of the American Association and being named minor league manager of the year in 1952.
Appling was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964. He died in Cumming, Georgia at age of 83.