Bennie Lenton Griggs
Born : August 28, 1928, Birmingham, Alabama
Died : November 18, 2006, Birmingham, Alabama
Batted: Right. Threw : Right.
Height : 5.11 Weight : 200
Birmingham All-Stars 1948
Delisle Gems 1949-1950
Military Service 1951-52, Purple Heart
Saskatoon Gems 1953-54-55
North Battleford Beavers 1956-57-58
Wellsville Braves 1959
Jacksonville Braves/Jets 1960-61
Cedar Rapids Braves 1961
Yakima Braves 1962
North Battleford Beavers 1962-63
Inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball
Hall of Fame, 2010
[Photo at left courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives, Photo # 19753802039]
Bennie (usually mis-spelled "Benny" during his tenure in Saskatchewan) Griggs first played in Canada in 1948 pitching for the touring Birmingham All-Stars.
In 1949, Griggs was a 20-year-old righthander with the Bentley's Delisle Gems. Obviously, he did more than mound work as Griggs proved to be adept at the plate as well. In 1950 he was the fourth best hitter in the Saskatoon and District League with a .352 batting average.
Above - Griggs with Saskatoon in 1953. Right - in his second season in Canada, with Delisle Gems in 1950.
Baseball was in the family. His brothers, Acie and Wiley, had played with the Birmingham Black Barons and other clubs in the Negro Leagues. In the late 40s Bennie had competed in industrial leagues around his home town of Birmingham, Alabama and with the Chattanooga Choo Choos and New Orleans Creoles.
After his two seasons in Canada, he was drafted into the US Army and spent 1951 and 1952 in Korea and was wounded in action. He was awarded a Purple Heart.
Upon his return from service duties, Griggs came back to Western Canada to join the Saskatoon Gems of the Saskatchewan League and continued his success tying for the league lead in wins, with 9, and leading all pitchers in strikeouts with 92. He had six playoff starts and tossed five complete games including a pair of shutouts.
The 5'11" righty anchored the Saskatoon staff for three seasons. In 1954 he was 10-5, in a league-leading 133 innings. He was tied for second in wins and finished three strikeouts behind the leader, Lloydminster's Max Weekly who finished with 103. Griggs and Weekly tied for the lead in complete games, each with eleven. Griggs won three playoffs starts, all complete games allowing a total of ten hits. In one victory, he gave up two hits and a run in the opening frame then pitched no-hit ball the rest of the way.
He was 9-4, 3.72 in 1955 and led the loop with 16 starts and was just an inning behind the leader.
In 1955 and 1956 Griggs was a key member of Canada's team at the Global World Series.
The mound workhorse joined North Battleford for the 1956 season and began a long association with the Beavers. He finished 7-7 and finished among the leaders in innings pitched, 129, and strikeouts, 102. His 147 innings led the league in 1957 when he finished 10-9 with 120 strikeouts in 29 games, 16 of them starts.Again, in 1958, he led the circuit in innings, 120, and strikeouts, 93, while tying for the lead in wins with 9. He also helped out at the plate with a .289 average.
Griggs, now 30 (but showing his age as 25 on official documents) took a fling at pro ball beginning in 1959 when he went 21-7 and was an All-Star with the Wellsville Braves of the New York-Penn League. It was his best season as he led the league in wins, complete games, 21, innings pitched, 231, and strikeouts, 175.
He finished 8-10, 3.84 the following season in moving up to Jacksonville of the South Atlantic League. He split the 1961 season between Jacksonville and Cedar Rapids of the Three I League appearing in a combined 32 games with 128 strikeouts in 162 innings, and a 2.83 earned run average. Early in the '61 season, Griggs pitched perhaps his best single game.
On May 27th, Griggs tossed a no-hitter for 9 2/3s but came away a loser as he lost the no-hit bid in the 10th on a single by the opposing pitcher and lost the ball game in the 12th. The story from the Jacksonville Times-Union :
Jacksonville righthander Ben Griggs pitched nine and two-thirds innings of no-hit, no-run ball against Greenville in the scheduled seven-inning opener of a double-header last night -- only to lose, 1-0, in the 12th when opposing pitcher Mel McGavock singled home the winning run
McGavock, who also went the route in the season's finest pitching duel here, had spoiled Griggs' no-hitter with two out in the tenth by beating out an infield hit to the third base side of the mound.
In the Greenville 12th, Art Burnett opened with a walk, and was sacrificed to second by Wendell Hall. After John Werhas bounced to third for the second out, McGavock popped a single to left, scoring Burnett with the winning run. Gary Smith, next up, singled up the middle for the Spinners' third and final hit of the game.
All told, Griggs struck out 13 batters and walked six. He fanned six in the first two innings en route to his first defeat of the year after two wins.
McGavock was tagged for 11 hits, including four singles by Dale Bennetch and doubles by Bill Rittman and Joe Wooten. He fanned four and walked three in notching his seventh win against two loses.
The Jets had ample opportunities to win, the best one being in the bottom of the tenth, when, with two on, Walt Matthews smashed a 410-foot fly to centerfield, Dick Smith hauling it down at the base of the scoreboard.
Griggs began the 1962 campaign in Yakima in the Northwest League compiling a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings (with 28 strikeouts) before returning to Canada and the North Battleford Beavers.
He led the Northern Saskatchewan League in wins, finishing at 9-3, and batted .276. His 10-3 record in 1963 was the best winning percentage in the loop and he was among the hitting leaders with a .348 mark.
The summer of 1963 appears to have been his last season.
While baseball may have been his game, golf was his love.
"He was a good golfer. We'd go over there to play baseball and they'd have to get him off the golf course to pitch. They say man go get Bennie the game is getting ready to start. He'd rush from the golf course, put his uniform on and throw about two pitches and he'd be ready." (former teammate Curly Williams)