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T O P I C R E V I E W
Posted - 11/06/2013 : 15:23:05 In an Earl Wilson newspaper article of October 16, 1955, the columnist wrote about Shep, and included some background color about his family back in Indiana. Wilson mentioned that Shep's brother Randy was a "former pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds," who had played for the Reds "in late 1947 and in spring training in 1948." Although the foregoing piece of Shep trivia has been referenced from time to time -- including in this forum and in Bergmann's EYF -- the true facts have been elusive. Thanks to some Shep spies in Cooperstown, we now know the name of the actual team.
The Rockford Rox was a minor league team that originally played in Rockford, Illinois, from 1917 to 1923 in the Class B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. However, the Rox was resurrected in 1947 as a Class C team affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds in the six-team Central Association. Its best season as a Class C team was its first in 1947, when the Rox lost in the first round playoffs, placing third (68-57). The team went downhill from there. They finished in 5th place (56-72) in 1948, and in last place (38-91) in 1949, when the Rox disbanded because of financial difficulties.
Randy Shepherd signed a contract with the Rockford Rox on April 5, 1948, with spring training to begin a week later. He was released from the contract within six weeks, perhaps sticking around a bit after that. Except for an index card documenting the contract with the long-defunct team, little else seems to remain regarding Randy's brief professional career.
The Rockford Rox was a troubled team. During the 1948 season, the team manager was suspended a month for spitting at an umpire. And in the team's final season, they lost locker room privileges when playing the Burlington Indians at the Indians' home field. The Rox and their manager had "jumped on" the Burlington groundskeepers for a failure to provide the Rockford team enough hot water in the dressing rooms.
But the main reason the Rox folded was probably its inability to compete for paying fans with another professional baseball team playing at a nearby stadium in the same Illinois town. The very popular and successful Rockford Peaches of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League played in Rockford from 1943 until 1954, when the league folded. The Peaches and their league were made famous to later fans by the 1992 Hollywood hit, A League of Their Own. Randy, of course, gained his own sort of cinematic notoriety a decade earlier in A Christmas Story.