The Boston Braves would move on after the Championship season... it would be a major loss for the team as they still had with some pretty good talent, but no Major League umbrella with which to play under. The talent was also beginning to age. Cliff Bolton who almost hit .400 last season and hit over .400 the season before had already done his time with the Washington Senators. The catcher was 43 and age was beginning to catch up with him. He still ht .347 with 20 Doubles and 7 Homers, but he was coming to the end of his career. 17 year old future Chicago Cubs
catcher Sammy Taylor handled the rest of the games behind the plate for Bolton batting .301 with 15 2B and 5 HR. James Gruzdis meanwhile... well his age had caught up with him. He would continue on managing the Hi-Toms (which he obviously did pretty well) but he would not again pick up the bat. Even Al Jarlett was just starting to be showing signs of slowing down, now at age 35. Well... at 18-10 with a 2.63 ERA... that was still pretty darn good. Newcomers William Conroy (15-7, 3.35) and Robert Mathieson (17-10, 3.00) both 19, took up much of the slack and even Lynn Southworth who went 21-1 last season came in to pitch in 18 games going 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA. The Hi-Toms wouldn't last long without with Major League involvement. After only one year, the Hi-Toms nabbed another affiliation.. this time with the Boston Braves' American League rivals... the Boston Red Sox. The Hi-Toms couldn't be happier to be under BoSox's regime knowing full well that they would be receiving the same quality of talent that they had gotten from the Boston Braves organization. Right off the bat, the Red Sox had just signed an exciting new pitcher from Elon University and immediately sent him to their newest franchise at Finch Field. His name was Tom Brewer and he was on the fast track to the Major Leagues. He would spend one full season... his only Minor League season... with the Hi-Toms putting together a fantastic 19-3 record with a league leading 2.55 ERA on his way to the Fenway Park mound where he would join the team in 1954. By 1956 Brewer was winning those same 19 games in the Majors and playing for the American League All-Star team. The rotation didn't stop there... Arivd Hamilton was just as exciting going 18-4 with a 2.86 ERA, Charles Griffith went 12-5 with a 2.43, James Patton went 11-7 with a 3.90 and Jack Thomas was 12-7 with a 3.86. 44 year old Cliff Bolton still managed to get in 229 At Bats, batting .323 with 9 doubles and 9 homers and John Lybrand was absolutely phenomenal slamming 34 2Bs, 14 HRs while batting a sky high .380, leading the league in hits with 189. Harrold Harrigan blasted 18 HR and batted .265. The two young Boston futures helped tremendously as future Sox/Senators OF Tom Umphlett hit 24 doubles, 14 HRs and batted .310 while the future Boston Red Sox Left Fielder Gene Stephens was the real big bopper of the team, hitting .337 with 32 doubles and 22 Homers on his way to a 12 year Major League Career. Together this monster team did it yet again... they reached the 90 win mark with an outstanding record of 90-36 (.714) tying the all time record for wins that Gruzdis and team had set just 2 seasons ago. Again, the team finished in 1st place, 18 games in front... just like 1949... and just like in 1949 (when they won the Championship) they went 4-1 in the first round, easily beating Elkin. (The Moors finished 2nd to last by the way). Now for the finals. Things looked very similar to 1949 so far and the 49 championship proved to be a hell of fight taking all 7 games to win. The Hi-Toms would have been happy with that as long as they got the win, but this team apparently was a little different. Facing the Owls, the Hi-Toms simply blew away Statesville, sweeping them in 4 games and taking their 4th Championship home to Finch Field. Things couldn't look any better than they did for the Hi-Toms. Amidst the celebrations however... something was missing... the fans. Apparently T.V. sets began arriving throughout the Triad as well as all over North Carolina. Half the families in town had gotten one by now and couldn't wait to go home to watch it. The Hi-Toms looked out over sparse crowd... only 1/2 of what it was the season before... drawing only 52,000 all season. Worse yet, it was still 2nd best in the league as Hickory drew a season high 53k. If this was the trend, then the whole entire league was in trouble because High Point-Thomasville combined two very nice sized cities. Teams like Salisbury had drawn a measley 14k. James Gruzdis meanwhile was now on top of the world... two Championships and two 90 win seasons in 3 years. 1952 however was going to be a little different. Many of the players that Gruzdis had come to count on had reached the end of the line. Bolton who was now 45, hung up his cleats for good. John Lyband was still here and he was still impressive as ever batting .356 with 38 doubles, 11 HRs and a league leading 102 RBI. Newcomer Ed Lavene batted .354 with 27 doubles and 9 triples. On the mound, the pitching was great as usual... Arvid Hamlton who had been so important to the team as a slugger, became a pitcher... going 5-3 with a 2.54 ERA. Charles Girffith who was 12-5 last season was 16-4 with a 2.74 ERA this season. John Zavada went 16-5 with a 2.77 ERA while William Zonner went 16-7 with a 2.59 ERA. Future Red Sox starter Duane Wilson also contributed going 9-4 with a 2.60. This Red Sox franchise was almost as outstanding as ever finishing atop the North Carolina State League in 1st place in the newly shortened season... with a 74-33 (.692) record. (90 wins obviously couldn't happen again. If the season was still 126 games as it had been in the past, their winning percentage would have garnered them 87 wins). Unfortunately, the Hi-Toms wouldn't get out of the 1st round this time. While that would have been a huge upset for the league, there were much bigger problems on the horizon. With everyone now able to afford one of those new fangled television things... attendance dropped at the stadium to barely 18,000 (and that was one of the higher attendance records). The North Carolina State League couldn't survive with 5 teams drawing under 20,000 fans for an entire season and the only way they could go on, was to merge with the Western Carolina League and become a "super league". Instead of keeping either name however, they adopted the "Tar Heel League" moniker which had been "available" ever since the original Tar Heel League folded right before World War II. In 1953, the High-Point Thomasville High-Toms began playing in the new 10 team league without the safety of a Major League umbrella (the Red Sox did not follow the team over to the Tar Heel League).. but immediately began running into issues, as attendance was dismal. By June 1st, the team was in 9th place and fighting to stay alive, and by June 11th waived the white flag, as they couldn't continue on any longer. The High Point Thomasville Hi-Toms had succumbed to Television.