My mother got her second Covid-19 vaccine shot recently, so I stopped by her home to check on her. She was doing fine and after we exchanged stories about what was going on in our lives, she mentioned that she had something for me. She had found a Standard Times newspaper clipping back from when I played high school baseball that somehow had landed on the floor in her den closet. It was from May, 1990 and it featured a baseball game I played in for North Kingstown High School vs Narragansett High School. Peeling back the cobwebs of baseball memories, I started to recall bits and pieces from that game. One memory that popped into my head was a towering home run hit by one of my teammates, Jason Tucker. It actually landed in the tennis courts and then bounced onto Kingstown Rd. A massive shot that I would estimate at about 420 feet, at least. My mom pointed out the mention of that Tucker dinger in the article. “See, it mentions Jason. The Narragansett Coach said ‘I haven’t seen a ball hit that far since the days of George Nixon.'” “Let me see that, Mom,” I asked and she handed me the crumpled newspaper page. “George Nixon,” the name didn’t ring any bells for me. “May I keep this,” I asked my mother wanting to find out who this George Nixon player was. “Oh yes of course, I have no use for it,” she replied and we said our good-byes. As I was walking towards my car in her rain soaked driveway, I looked at the newspaper page again. “George Nixon” “haven’t seen a ball hit that far” I said out loud. I started to ponder “was George Nixon on the team that year or in the years I played?” I was eager to get home and do some George Nixon research.
I got a hit on the first search for “George Nixon baseball” on Google. This is going to be the easiest baseball article I have ever researched for. I giddily clicked on the link on Baseball Reference and my enthusiasm deflated. George Nixon in this case played 2 seasons of Minor League baseball in the late 1940s. He managed to win 11 games in 2 seasons. Surely, this wasn’t the George Nixon the Narragansett High School coach was referring to. Strike one. I then entered “George Nixon Rhode Island” into the Google search. Strike two, no mentions specifically about a man named George Nixon and baseball and ties to Narragansett. There were a few “George Nixons” listed that lived throughout the state, but nothing that I was researching for I wasn’t ready to strikeout on George Nixon, so my next order of business was to text my sister Erin, who is a teacher at Narragansett High School. “Hey sis, who is the current Narr Baseball Coach and how can I contact him?” She replied later that afternoon with the coach’s information. Success – base hit!!!
“Thanks for taking the time to chat Coach,” I stated via email to Narragansett Baseball’s Alex Plympton. “Do you recall the name “George Nixon” and did he play for Narragansett High School? If so, can you contact me at 401-533-0913, because I am very interested in his story.” A few hours later, I received a call from Coach Plympton while I was driving to work. “George Nixon, wow, where did you dig that name up from,” started Coach Plympton. I mentioned the visit to my mother’s home, that I played high school baseball in the late 1980’s, and the newspaper article featuring my friend Jason and the home run comparison to George Nixon. “I haven’t heard that name in years, my older brother played with him on the Narragansett team in 1977. Wow, that name was the talk of Narragansett that high school year. In fact, the entire state of Rhode Island baseball knew the name George Nixon.” I asked Coach Plympton if I could contact his brother regarding Nixon, to which Plympton agreed. Plympton’s brother Aaron worked for the Narragansett Parks and Recreation Department and could be seen most days at Sprague Park attending to the grounds. I thanked Coach Plympton and was excited about this next link in the George Nixon chain. Another successful at bat, runners on first and second!
On Tuesday morning, I took the drive from my home in North Kingstown down to Sprague Park in Narragansett to meet up with Aaron Plympton. I had phoned Plympton over the weekend and he said he would have about 10 minutes to talk baseball, as he was prepping the Majors Field and the High School fields for Spring baseball. I arrived and saw a man attaching signage to the backstop of the High School field and called out to him “Aaron?” The man, focused on his work, flinched and then turned around to face me “yes, I’m Aaron.” “Hi,” I raised my hand “I’m Noel from the Rhode Island Baseball Experience, I called you about George Nixon.” Aaron put his work assignment down on the lawn cart in front of him and smiled. “George Nixon, the one season wonder,” he said. An incredible rush went through my baseball soul as I was finally going to hear about this man. “Let’s find a spot in the home side dugout here and chat, it looks like we are going to get some rain in a few,” Aaron motioned to the dugout on the first base side of the field. I walked next to him with a little pace as the raindrops, as Aaron predicted, began to fall. Aaron found a spot in the corner of the dugout and sat with his back up against the cement wall. I parked myself about 6 feet from him and took out my notebook to take notes. Aaron started “So, what do you want to know about Nix?” Crack, another solid base hit, bases are loaded and the clean-up hitter is walking to the plate.
I mentioned the newspaper article and the home run my friend had hit. “Landed in the tennis courts, wow that is a humdinger of a homer. Nix used to hit them onto the street in batting practice,” laughed Aaron. “So, he batted left handed?” I asked. “The funny thing is I remember him starting to bat right handed and then he switched. George’s father was a fisherman down there in Galilee and George would work with him during school and on school vacations. From the reeling, I guess he got his left forearm muscles busted or something, so he switched to batting left. Used to swing the bat almost like a tennis racquet, like hitting a backhand shot (Aaron demonstrated a backhand motion). With one hand, he could hit the ball a mile.” Aaron paused for a moment, maybe to recall some of the Nixon home runs from his high school days. “Ok, so George played on the Narragansett team? Was he a four year player?” Aaron shuck his head, “No, he only played one season. His junior year, 1977, he played all 12 games that year. And got only 5 hits. 5 home runs. The rest of the time he was either walked or hit by a pitch.” I shot back “So, he batted a thousand? He never flied out or popped out or struck out? 5 hits, 5 homers, that’s it?” “Yep, and a ton walks, maybe 3 per game,” Aaron mentioned. “You see, by the second or third game of the season, George’s name had gotten around to the other High School coaches. No one in the state could throw it by him. And he had the vision of an eagle. Sure they would throw curveballs and sliders and sinkers and the occasional knuckleball to try to get him to chase. George was the most patient player and hitter I have ever seen. Maybe it was his family’s background in fishing or something? He would go 3 games sometimes without seeing a strike. And then, when a pitcher would let his guard down, George would make him pay with a towering blast. George didn’t just hit home runs, he hit moon shots.” “So, you said he played his Junior year and that’s it? What happened to him his Senior year, 1978? Did his family move?” Aaron paused again, a blew out a long exhale. This time it was a sad memory. “After the season, George and his father were back at the fishing thing. One morning they left Galilee, and no one ever heard from him again. They sent a rescue ship out for them, Coast Guard, helicopters, that sort of thing. After a week or so of searching, they came back empty. George and his father and the crew of that fishing ship just disappeared. No wreckage, no life raft, nothing.” Aaron stared out onto Sprague Field as the rain began to let up. “Wow, I’m so sorry for your loss” I sincerely felt bad for bringing this sad memory up for Aaron. “I think he would have been scouted and maybe drafted the following year. I can honestly say I have never seen a more feared hitter in all my years cutting these fields,” as Aaron pointed to baseball fields just on the other side of the dugout fencing. Wham, grand slam!!!
Aaron and I left the dugout and parted ways around home plate. I thanked him for the information about George Nixon and felt both happy and sad to have learned about him. A season for the ages. 5 hits, 5 home runs, a one thousand batting average. Nixon was the most feared hitter in Rhode Island in 1977 and hit Ruthian home runs seemingly with one hand. Pitchers tried their best to fool him but Nix was always one step ahead. A one season wonder and a legendary baseball player gone too soon, George Nixon.
Editor’s Note: This is a fictional story with events, places, and persons both real and imagined. Over the years, I have loved creative writing pieces and most definitely on April Fools Day, April 1st. Last year, with Covid-19 hitting all of us like a fastball to the hip, I decided not to write a funny, fictional piece for April 1st. This year, with renewed optimism and vaccines and activities picking up, I wanted to revisit my love of creative writing and publish a fun and engaging April Fools article.
Happy April Fools Day to all my Rhode Island baseball community members.