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Midwest League Profile

Butch and Zipper

The Midwest League's record for Runs Batted In dates from 1952: Jim Zapp knocked in 136 runs for Paris, Illinois, that summer, helping lead the Lakers to an 85-42 (.669) record. Although Zapp's season counts among the five or ten best in MWL history, there was a better player on the Paris team.

Paris joined the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League in 1950 as an independent expansion team, and finished sixth of eight teams. Seeking better success, Paris hired Tom Sunkel to manage the team for 1951. Sunkel signed first baseman Clint McCord from the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro National League.

Butch McCord's first season at Paris was an unqualified success, as he led the League in most offensive categories (.363, 132 runs, 16 HR, he also managed 118 RBI without leading the league in that category). The team finished first in the M-OV with a 84-34 (.700) record, though they lost to eventual champion Danville in the first playoff round.

Major Change

MWL Fan's Guide

McCord returned in 1952, and played at the same level (.392, 15 HR, 109 RBI). He was joined in the Lakers lineup by another Negro Leaguer, outfielder Jim Zapp. Zipper Zapp had an incredible season in Paris:

   G  AB  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB HB   BA
 122 467 85 154 31  9 20 136 45 63  7 12 .330

This 1952 team had another exceptional season, but an even stronger Danville squad beat them in first half, then tied them for the league lead in the second half. Perhaps exhausted by the regular season competition, two of the strongest teams in League history lost in the opening round of the playoff series.

Paris fielded another strong team in 1953, but without these stars. McCord played minor league ball for another decade. Zapp played a few games at Danville in the '53 season, but returned to the Negro Leagues. This minor league/Negro League pattern continued through 1955, when Negro League ball ended and Zapp retired from baseball.

Zapp was one of the most obvious victims of the end of Black baseball. By the end of his playing career, he'd gained a reputation as a capable coach--but Organized Baseball had no place for colored coaches in the late fifties. He retired to Memphis, as did McCord a few years later; both were still attending Negro League celebrations in 1999.

This Tidbit was pieced together from a variety of sources, including some unsolicited e-mail, the 1953 Spink Guide, the 1952 Baseball Blue Book, some stats donated by Pat Doyle, and a web search.

That web search deserves some comment. Although I found some wonderful material about McCord and Zapp, I also found some very sloppy research. Always check your sources....

True Baseball's pages devoted to McCord are particularly valuable.

This profile originated as the May 6, 2001, Midwest League Tidbit on the Midwest League Mailing List.


The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

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