Fred Springs was born in North Carolina in 1881.
His minor league career began in 1904 with the Jacksonville Jays of the South Atlantic League (Class C). According to BR he played in eleven games and hit a paltry .067. He did not play in the minor leagues from 1905-1906.
In 1907 he joined the South Carolina League’s Sumter Gamecocks (Class D) where he hit .266 in 124 at bats. He rejoined Sumter in 1908 and had a fine year at the plate hitting .277 in forty-nine games. Springs jumped to the Carolina Association (Class D) in 1909 and played for the Spartanburg Spartans where he compiled a respectable .251 batting average in 104 games and 386 plate appearances.
Springs’ minor league history for 1910 is less clear. BR lists him as playing for both Greensboro and Spartanburg of the Carolina Association (Class D). He is shown as a member of Greensboro on his T209 baseball card, and is listed as a Spartanburg Spartan on his T210 card. Further, the AC mentions him as a member of the Asheville Mountaineers. He probably played for all three teams in one year.
In all likelihood Springs signed to play with the 1910 Greensboro Champs, and posed for his player photo before the season began. Contentnea Cigarettes, not known for accurate player affiliations, issued his Greensboro card in early 1910. At some point before the season began he was either released by Greensboro, or asked for his release, but there is no record of his Greensboro departure.
The April 19 Spartanburg Herald mentions Springs as a member of the Spartanburg team. After summarizing the upcoming season, the article notes that Springs could not sell his crutches so he threw them away. The crutch reference implies that he was injured in the off-season, but had recovered. The injury may have prompted Greensboro to release him before the season began, at which point he rejoined Spartanburg where he had played the previous year. In the same Herald article Springs is quoted as saying it would take “200 horse power benz to catch him when the season began.” Since he had signed with the Spartans by early April, Old Mill used a different photo of him for his Spartanburg T210 card.
Springs is listed in box scores for the Spartans during the early portion of the 1910 season, but by late May his name no longer appears in newspaper coverage. Then on July 14 he appears in a box score for Asheville. If he had been playing for Spartanburg, and then switched to Asheville, where was he during the six weeks from late May to mid-July?
It’s possible that his injury reoccurred and he took six weeks off to recover before signing with Asheville. It’s also possible that after he was released by Spartanburg, he re-signed with Greensboro, played with them for a short time, and was released. BR notes that he hit .170 in 165 combined plate appearances in the Carolina Association. His anemic batting average may have prompted both Spartanburg and Greensboro to eventually give up on him.
There is another intriguing possible explanation for his six weeks disappearance from the minor leagues. There were numerous amateur baseball leagues throughout the Carolinas sponsored by textile mills, and it is possible that Springs played for one of these teams during his absence. One of the more famous mill league players, Shoeless Joe Jackson, got his start in baseball playing for the team sponsored by the mill where he worked in Greenville, SC. Jackson began his professional career when he signed a contract to play for the fledging Greenville Spinners in the Carolina Association. As demonstrated by Jackson and others, it was not uncommon for players to move back and forth from mill league teams to the low level minor leagues.
Wherever he played after Spartanburg, Springs made his Asheville debut in the outfield on July 13, and played first base on July 20. Ironically, after the 20th he disappears from Asheville box scores, but on August 9 the Courier mentions that Springs had returned and would play on August 10. The paper boasted that “Asheville will have the greatest team ever seen in a Class D league.” Apparently Springs had cache as a player, but had yet to display it consistently for Asheville.
He patrolled centerfield upon his return to Asheville, and apart from missing a few starts in August, played the balance of the Mountaineer’s games. When the season concluded the Courier noted that he was leaving for his home in Greensboro (September 10).
Springs is an excellent example of player movement in the Southern minor leagues. After leaving Greensboro, he joined Spartanburg, and eventually left. He may have played for another team before joining Asheville, but there are no records. Despite the fact that BR does not list him on Asheville’s roster, AC coverage establishes that he finished the season playing for the Mountaineers. In the span of one season he played for at least three teams, all of them in the lower minor leagues.
At twenty-nine years old, and given his peripatetic season, Springs may have decided that his professional career was finished. He does not appear in any minor league records after 1910. Springs was accidentally shot and killed on January 21, 1931. (Statesville Record, NC)