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Braves Baseball Is Back and I Remember Luke by Bill Vanderford

Luke Appling With a Nice Spotted Bass Caught From His Dock
Photo by Bill Vanderford

While fishing for striped bass with Atlanta Braves Traveling Secretary, Bill Acree, we began reminiscing about an old fishin' buddy and great ball player. He was Chicago White Sox, Hall of Fame shortstop, Luke Appling, and until his death, Luke had a dock in one of the deeper coves near the mouth of Six Mile Creek on Lake Lanier here in Georgia.

Luke fell in love with Lake Lanier even before it was full. He fished it from the time the water first started rising during the mid-1950's, until he passed away. “Lanier is a good fishing lake,” Luke used to say. “Everybody tells me I put my dock on the best fishing hole in the lake. I've sat on the dock and caught a 12 pound bass, and I saw another guy catch about a 40 pound and 26 pound striper one morning in front of my dock.”

Luke grew up fascinated with hunting and fishing, but saved lots of time for baseball. He lived on East Avenue, just off Highland Avenue until the fifth grade, then moved to a 65 acre farm in Douglas County. During those years, Luke fished in Sweetwater Creek and other local lakes with cane poles and live bait.

As a youngster, Luke played on fields in Lithia Springs, Powder Springs, Austell and Douglasville. He was a left-handed pitcher in those days. “My Daddy was left-handed, and I was left-handed when I was little,” Luke had told me. “In fact, I was left-handed all the way to high school. Then, I switched over to right-handed cause I wanted to play shortstop.”

Luke played for many of the mill and railroad teams around Atlanta. During the summer, Luke would always play on at least two league teams. After high school, Appling attended Oglethorpe College. They had a good team, and all the boys on the Oglethorpe ball club signed a baseball contract when they graduated.

Luke Appling signed his first pro contract with the Atlanta Crackers in 1930, but before that first year was over, Luke Appling's contract was sold to the Chicago White Sox for around $20,000. He then played shortstop for them for twenty years from 1930 to 1950. During that time, 'Old Aches and Pains', as his teammates called him, played in 2422 games, had 2749 hits, and earned a lifetime batting average of .310. In 1964, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Despite his lifelong involvement with baseball, Luke Appling always found time for hunting and fishing. He loved bird hunting and owned as many as fourteen bird dogs at one time. He also hunted deer and bear, and fished all over the south.

During his last years, he was the roving hitting instructor for the Atlanta Braves. Nevertheless, Luke found time to pursue his outdoors interests. In between trips to the various minor league stadiums, he would catch bass from the comfort of his dock in Six-Mile Creek. He lived a busy and fulfilling life, but Luke Appling is one hero who took the time to 'smell the roses' with his friends, and enjoy life to the fullest!