Marvin Eugene Rackley was born on July 25, 1921, in Seneca, South Carolina, a mill town just up the road from Clemson University in the northwestern corner of the state. (Like many professional players of his time, Rackley would later take a “baseball age,” claiming to have been born in 1922.) Marv’s parents were Thomas (aka Turp) and Blanche Rackley. Turp was a loom fixer in the local cotton mill. As of the 1930 U.S. census, there were six children, four girls, and two boys in the Rackley family. Marv was the fourth child and the second son.
Rackley entered Organized Baseball in 1941 with Valdosta in the Class D Georgia-Florida League, where he batted .322 in 133 games. He opened the 1942 season with Durham (North Carolina) in the Class B Piedmont League, but he struggled, finishing the season with a couple of months as a Dayton Duck in the Class C MidAtlantic League.
On October 5, 1942, Rackley entered military service with the Army Air Force at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He spent the next three years stationed at Craig Field, a fighter pilot training base five miles southeast of Selma, Alabama. Rackley played baseball on a regular basis at Craig Field.1
Perhaps as much as any player, Rackley seems to have been helped by his years in the service. Despite having shown just modest talent in the Minors, he went to spring training with the Dodgers in 1946. With veteran outfielders Dixie Walker and Pete Reiser both holding out, manager Leo Durocher raved about Marvin Rackley: “Let me tell you about this kid. He’s been in the service, and I never heard of him before he reported here. He looks like another Paul Waner—stands at the plate just like Paul—and he’s as fast as George Stirnweiss, to give you an idea. If this kid can hit like Waner, he’ll be a hell of a ball player.”2
Marv Rackley’s problem was that the Dodgers had too
many left-handed-hitting outfielders.
Not many kids hit like Paul Waner, but Rackley won a spot with the Class Triple-A Montreal Royals, a big jump from his last professional engagement. Despite playing in just 124 games, he still led the International League in both triples (14) and steals (65). One of the league’s fastest players,