House histories: Baseball’s “Line Drive” Nelson once lived in Southmoreland

joe-mosbyThe history of one home in the 4300 block of Warwick triggered memories for a former owner, who recalled stories he heard about a famous baseball player nicknamed “Line Drive” Nelson who once lived there.

Joe Mosby stood outside it recently and told the history of the home he once owned.

The Southmoreland neighborhood block seemed like pure diversity when he lived there from 1986 to 1990, he said.

more about the block and the block just across Warwick Boulevard to the east

Mosby, 61, now lives in Florida but was visiting the city and responded to a standing request from the Midtown KC Post’s Uncovering History project for stories of neighborhood history.

When he lived at the Warwick house, wealthy neighbors mixed with students and others. That big house at the north end of the block had a giant ballroom on the top floor.

Another house with four huge front porch columns was among the finest on the street.

A rundown home across from it was called “animal house” because so many wild young men lived there.

Pedestrians included art students walking to nearby classes.

The house as it looked in 1940. Courtesy Kansas City Public Library/Missouri Valley Special Collections.

The house as it looked in 1940. Courtesy Kansas City Public Library/Missouri Valley Special Collections.

“It would be November and cold,” he said, “and they could be barefoot with a hairstyle looking like the Statue of Liberty.”

The early years of 4310 Warwick

The home was one of several on either side of Warwick Boulevard designed by architect Albert Turney, who also designed a fire station for the city. Turney built several houses and then put them up for sale, promising that they were built in a way that would never go out of style.

In 1911, John G. Shedd president of Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago, bought the home from Turney for $15,500. It was a gift to his daughter and her new husband, Kansas City lawyer Kersey Coates Reed. They lived at 4310 until 1914 before moving to Chicago, where Mr. Reed became secretary and director of Marshall Field.

Dr. and Mrs. Edward Hunt bought the home from the Reeds, and a lawyer for the Kansas City Terminal Railroad, S.W. Sawyer, is listed as owner in 1921.

A baseball legend moves in

LynnNelsonGoudeycardA professional baseball player named Lynn Nelson and his wife apparently bought the house in about 1930.

An article in the Society for Professional Baseball Research tells much of Nelson’s story, at least as it relates to sports.

His nickname was “Line Drive” Nelson, and he was a good hitter, for a pitcher. But the nickname came from batters slamming his pitches in line drives.

Baseball didn’t pay much in those days and he also did secret unapproved work as a masked boxer known as the Masked Marvel. He won 21 professional fights with early knockouts.

In 1930 he married Ann Marie Galvin in Kansas City and Nelson soon went to work as an electrician, became a union leader and ran a speakeasy called the Lucky Clover in a Main Street building that later became the Grand Emporium, Mosby said. Barrels of beer and spirits were sometimes stored at the house at 4310 Warwick.

Political leaders also frequented gathered at the home, as Nelson’s wife Anna Mae was a county committeewoman for the seventh ward.

When he later bought the house from Nelson’s widow, he asked why the start of the driveway was good concrete and the back of it was a crumpled mess. It seems the electricians had plied a concrete worker with beer to do the job. Unfortunately, the worker passed out at the end of smooth concrete and electricians finished the work.

Mosby never fixed the crumpled concrete, but somebody later flattened it and covered it with asphalt. He walked the driveway recently, stopping where concrete meets asphalt.

Mosby’s years in the house

As for Mosby’s own time at the house, it was not without drama. At one point his wife forgot that she had hidden a revolver in a fire grate, he said.

When he started a coal fire, the shells exploded and showered the wooden floors with burning coal embers.

After six explosions, he managed to put out the fires and he and the house survived.

He lost it in a divorce in about 1990, he said, and it was soon sold to people who renovated it.

Somewhere along the way, it became rental units.

Looking up and down the street, he saw some progress. “Animal house looks a lot nicer than it did,” he said.

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