Written by W. Gene Barron
Professional Baseball Player
Ike Jerry Futch was born on January 31, 1941, the fifth of nine children, six boys and three girls, born to Joe Reed “Bouy” and Martha Marie Smith Futch. Most of his brothers were named after New York Yankee greats. All nine children were gifted athletes.
During Ike’s early years growing up in Spearsville, his attention was focused on baseball. While other boys played cowboy and Indians, Ike was swatting coke caps with a broom stick. You could really make a coke cap curve and it would seem impossible to hit with a broom stick, but with much practice, Ike was able to improve his eye to hand coordination to a point that he could hit it the coke cap most every time. His eye doctor said he had better vision than 20/20 vision. This practice probably enhanced his hand to eye coordination to a point that in later years he rarely struck out in baseball games.
In his senior year, Ike led his Class B Spearsville High School team to the Louisiana state championship at Baton Rouge going 8 for 12 at the plate during the tournament and was named to the Louisiana State all-star first team. Major league scouts attending the tournament were impressed with Ike’s performance, one of which was Richard Atley Donald, a Downsville, Louisiana native and former star pitcher for the New York Yankees.
The next day following Ike’s graduation from Spearsville High, Atley visited with Ike at his home in Spearsville and signed him to a contract with the New York Yankees and giving him a signing bonus of $35,000. Atley encouraged Ike to use some of the signing bonus to further his education, which Ike did by attending college one semester at a time during off seasons. By the way, Ike used part of his bonus money to buy his mother a home in Spearsville.
Ike was assigned to Kearney in the Class D Nebraska League where he played short stop. There he would lead the league in hitting by batting .319 and made the league’s all-star team.
The next year Ike moved up to the Class C Modesto team in the California league where he played second base, batted .311 with a 19 game hitting streak, and again made the all-star team. In 1961 Ike then moved up to the Class B team in Greensboro where he batted .305 and again made the all-star team.
In 1962 was with the Augusta Class A team where he batted .305 and entered the Louisville Slugger Hall of Fame for batting champions.
On March 5, 1963 Ike married his high school sweetheart, Brenda Patterson. In the 1963 season Ike was with the Class AA team in Augusta where he batted .317, again making the all-star team. In 1964 the Augusta team was moved to Columbus where Ike batted .313 and was the highest vote getter among infielders for the all-star team. On August 28 of that season, Ike went five for six with two doubles and a triple in a blowout 11-3 victory over Chattanooga. In 1963 he only struck out four times in 590 at bats.
In the 1965 Ike was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and optioned to the AA team Tulsa Oilers where, for the first time in his pro career his batting average fell below .300 at .290. Ike was by now gaining a reputation as being hard to strike out. At Tulsa he failed to strike out in 418 at bats. He struck out just five times in 569 at bats. His practice at batting coke caps in his younger years and his exceptional vision was paying off. While he was at Tulsa, a local hamburger joint displayed a large sign at the stadium, “Strike Futch out and win Hamburgers”, or something to that affect. While at Tulsa Ike also set Texas League records of five strikeouts in a season, fewest errors by a second baseman, five, and forty-four games without making an error. While at Tulsa he played against Cecil Upshaw who played for Austin, Texas, an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Ike hit a double off of the right center field wall in his first at bat against him. Ike said, “That that was a little payback for beating us in the Dubach tournament in high school.”
Ike was drafted by the Houston Astros and sent to the Class AAA Oklahoma City team in 1966. He got off to a slow start that year, batting only .284. On June 25th, Joe Morgan was hit by a line drive off the bat of team mate Lee Maye during batting practice, broke his right knee cap and would be out of the lineup for an extended period. Ike was placed on the active roster, and probably would have played second base for the Astros, at least until Joe recovered, which was expected to be at least forty games. His plane was to leave for Houston after his game the next day. Unfortunately during that game, while trying to turn a double play, Ike was hit by a takeout slide by Bob “Shorty” Randman, who was trying to break up the double play, and shattered Ike’s left knee. Randman had been carrying a grudge from the last season when he got into a fight with some of the Oilers and wound up on the wrong end of a well thrown punch, and Randman took his revenge out on Ike. Ike was out for the year, thus losing his chance at the “show”.
Upon examination, the doctor reported that that was the worst knee injury that he had ever seen. Surgery was performed by Dr. Tompkins, Ike’s knee was put in a cast and he and Brenda came back to Spearsville for eight weeks until it was time to have the cast removed, at which time, they returned to Oklahoma City. After the cast was removed Ike rehabbed in the hospital until he was able to walk with the aid of crutches. . His flexibility was judged to be at only 15%. After he was able to walk without crutches, he and Brenda moved to Dallas to rehab at Baylor Hospital until it was time to go to spring training. In 1967 Ike returned to the Oklahoma City team and then Amarillo in the Texas League. On his second day back he had a good day for he hit a triple off reliever Dale Morgan, igniting a rally resulting in a win over Albuquerque. This, however, was one of the few bright spots for the year and at the close of the season he asked for his release, ending his nine year career as a professional baseball player.
Ike and Brenda then moved back to Dallas where he signed on to the local clubs affiliate for a few games and then with Cincinnati as a player coach. Shortly thereafter He and Brenda started their family and he retired from the game of baseball, a game he dearly loves to this day.
Available statistics show that Ike fanned 59 times in 4,057 at bats during his nine year pro career. Only two pitchers ever struck Ike out twice in one game in his whole career: Jack Tupper and Larry Danforth, both with the 1960 Visalia A’s – BUT it took Tupper eleven innings in his game to do it –once in the seventh and once in the eleventh. Another pitcher, Robert Anthony “Bob” Arrighi stated, “I never got him twice in one game, do you believe that? I got him more than anyone else that season and probably anyone else in his career, but I couldn’t get him more than once in one game on strikes.”
Gene Barron is a native of Spearsville, Union Parish, Louisiana. He has a genealogy database of 182,000 names, who are all connected to his family.
Gene has also written several historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend them.