Bat It Like Beckham

A third-generation athlete led the Dogs to near victory in the college world series.

In the annals of baseball history, few families have been represented across three generations.

One that comes to mind – and probably the most successful – is the Bagby family. James Charles Jacob Bagby (Old Sarge) won 129 games, mostly for the Cleveland Indians. His son, James Jr., won 97 games, mostly for the Boston Red Sox. But it was with Cleveland that he ended Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak at 56 games. His son, Charles Bagby, was a standout baseball and basketball player for the University of Georgia.

Here in Georgia, the current “household name” among three generation families is the Gordon Beckham family, specifically, James Gordon Beckham, III. He is the son of James Gordon Beckham, Jr., one of the greatest football players Westminster Schools ever produced and a quarterback of some note at the University of South Carolina. James Gordon, Sr. was a stellar football and baseball player for Atlanta’s Northside High School and a letterman in UGA football and baseball.

But make no mistake about it, Gordon III is the man of the hour.

The 6-0, 175-pound shortstop is baseball’s Player of the Year and Scholar Athlete of the Year in the Southeastern Conference. A junior at UGA, he won the Triple Crown, the first Bulldog to do so since 2001. He led the team in batting average with a scintillating .411, home runs with 28 and RBI’s with 77.

His 28 home runs tied for the most in the nation.

He became the first Bulldog in 26 years to hit over .400 in one season. For his career, Beckham hit a Bulldog record of 52 home runs. At the College World Series he hit a blistering .522 with two home runs and five RBIs.

Beckham extended Georgia’s season with a three-run homer to lead the Bulldogs past Louisville, 9-8, in the loser’s bracket in the NCAA Regionals. Said Louisville Coach Dan McDonald, “When the game is on the line, he delivers. He broke our backs.”

Thanks to Beckham, the Bulldogs vaulted to the College World Series. Beckham ignited the clincher with back-to-back two-run homers in a 17-8 mismatch. With Georgia bats seemingly suffering from encephalitis in the World Series championship game against Fresno State, Beckham woke his teammates up with a prodigious home run. Unfortunately, they went back to sleep and Beckham’s blast was the only Georgia run in a 6-1 loss.

He made the All-America freshman baseball team and batted an incredible .727 in a three-game series against Georgia Tech. As a sophomore he drove in seven runs in one game against Furman University.

Beckham, like his dad, attended Westminster School where he excelled in football and baseball. In baseball, he hit .456 his senior season and led the Wildcats in runs scored, hits, triples, home runs, runs batted in, total bases and walks. The opposition could not get him out.

In football at Westminster, he was selected to the all-state team as a junior and a senior. He threw for 1,829 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior, enough to attract both baseball and football recruiters.

Gordon’s father, James Gordon Beckham, Jr., now 48, is president of a data processing company. But it seems like only yesterday that he was the high school football rage at Westminster. He quarterbacked the Wildcats to the Class AAA state championship. He also set the record for most touchdown passes (24) at Westminster, only to have it broken by his son.

“We kept it in the family,” Beckham Jr. says.

At South Carolina, injuries kept him on the bench most of the time. But he was a starting quarterback for two years. He got more than football out of South Carolina. He also won the heart of the former Sully Howell after the two met on a blind date 28 years ago.

Of their son, who will play for the Chicago White Sox, Beckham Jr. says, “He will make it in professional baseball. In everything he has ever tried he has succeeded.”

As for Gordon Beckham, Sr., he was a two-time All-Atlanta running back and defensive back. Playing for the late coach Wayman Creel, he twice scored five touchdowns in one game. “My biggest enjoyment in life is seeing my son and grandson excel in the classroom as well as on the athletic field,” he says.

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