James Luther Sewell (January 5, 1901 in Titus, Elmore County; died May 14, 1987 in Akron, Ohio) was a catcher and manager in Major League Baseball. He grew up wanting to play baseball, and graduated from the University of Alabama; he batted and threw right-handed. Sewell had two brothers who also played major league ball: Joe Sewell, a Hall of Fame shortstop, and Tommy Sewell, who had one at-bat with the Chicago Cubs.
After beginning the 1921 season with the Columbus Senators in the American Association, Sewell was called up to the major leagues where he played from 1921 until 1939, and briefly in 1942.
As a catcher, Sewell had a very good arm and was great at throwing out runners, leading the league in assists four times.
Sewell had his first full year in 1926 with the Indians, where he had 103 hits in 433 at bats, good for a .238 batting average. He had 46 RBIs on the year, but no home runs.
His next year, however, was a breakout one. He hit .294 with 53 RBIs, 52 runs scored, and 138 hits, with 27 doubles and 6 triples. He was ninth in voting for the MVP Award, which Lou Gehrig won. Sewell questioned Babe Ruth's integrity in a game on June 11, 1927. He demanded that umpires check Ruth's bat after he clouted two straight homers off Garland Buckeye.
Sewell got his only postseason opportunity in the 1933 World Series when his Washington Senators lost to the New York Giants in five games. His World Series stats include a .176 batting average (3 for 17), with one stolen base, one run scored, and one RBI.
Even for the era, his low strikeout numbers were remarkable. Sewell never struck out more than 27 times in a season, and his career best was just 16 strikeouts in 451 at bats in 1936. That year, he also set his career highs in stolen bases (11) and RBIs (73). By that point in his career, he was an accomplished hitter, but had never made an All-Star team since the game's creation in 1933; he would earn an All-Star spot in 1937, with the Chicago White Sox. That year, he put up even better numbers than the consistently good ones he had been posting for a decade. On the season, he had a .269 batting average, with a .343 on base percentage and six triples, finishing fifth in MVP voting (Charlie Gehringer won). Although his season was not superb, some said he was given the trip to the All-Star game as a tribute to his career.
Sewell retired after making a very brief comeback as a player-manager in 1942 with the Browns. His final game was on August 1. Sewell's career statistics include a .258 batting average with 20 home runs and 696 RBIs. He had 65 career stolen bases and 653 runs scored. He accumulated 1393 hits, with 272 doubles and 56 triples. He holds the American League record of 20 seasons as an active catcher. He caught three no-hitters in his career (Wes Ferrell, Vern Kennedy, and Bill Dietrich).
After his retirement as a player, Sewell became a manager. Sewell's major league managerial record was 606-644, a .485 winning percentage. His most significant managerial job took place with the St. Louis Browns from 1941 through 1946 where he managed 850 games and had a 432-410 record. He led them to an AL pennant – the team's only championship in its 52 years in St. Louis—in 1944, although they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the all-St. Louis World Series. That year, he managed such players as Red Hayworth, Vern Stephens, and Jack Kramer, led them to an 89-65 record, and was awarded The Sporting News' Manager of the Year Award. After that, he joined the Reds in 1949, and remained there until 1952 when he was replaced by Rogers Hornsby.
In December 1953, Sewell was hired as manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. He led the team to the league championship in his first season and to a second-place finish in 1955. The team had a .622 winning percentage over his two years as manager.
Sewell died in Akron, Ohio at age 86. He and his brother rank eighth on the all-time list of combined hits by brothers, with 3,619.
- "Luke Sewell" (October 13, 2007) Wikipedia - accessed December 10, 2007
- Luke Sewell at Baseball-Reference.com