The Summer of 1947 in New York: The Hearst Sandlot Classic and Brooklyn Against the World

Chapter 8

  Hearst Sandlot Classic – 1947

  1. U. S. All-Stars 13; Journal American All-Stars 2

As Good as it Gets

“The game he (Babe Ruth) graced so well was graced once more by Ruth as it passed another unforgettable milestone with the greatest sandlot game in history” – Lewis Burton, New York Journal American.[i]

“The Hearst papers would have us on the move for every minute (of our stay in New York).  (They would have us) in the spotlight on this famous old Manhattan Island, showing us off, and promoting the game for all it was worth, and each of us loved every minute of the astronomical, All-American week!” – U. S. All-Star center fielder Bobby Hoeft.[ii]

Newspaper headlines were focused on the confrontation between Howard Hughes and Senator Owen Brewster in hearings in Washington. Front-page stories also addressed the ongoing unrest in the Middle East and the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the cold war between the united State and Russia.

But the kids were focused on the game of their young lives – as they should have been.

The agenda was similar to that of 1946 with a couple of additions that made the trip more memorable. At West Point, the boys met with All-American footballers Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. At Bear Mountain, while waiting for dinner to be served, the boys could look out toward the basketball court and see Pee Wee Reese and Pete Reiser of the Dodgers taking a few shots. A busy agenda was expanded to include a tour of the clubhouses at Yankee Stadium by Joe DiMaggio.

When the U. S. Stars first arrived, most of them assembled for a group picture atop the Hotel New Yorker with the Empire State Building in the background.

On Friday, August 8, after practice at Yankee Stadium, the boys went to Gracie Mansion to meet the Mayor of New York, saw the observation tower at the Radio City Music Hall, and in the evening were taken by bus (the Yankee team bus) to the fights at Madison Square Garden, where they had ringside seats. For young Bobby Hoeft, his night was made complete when none other than the great entertainer Lena Horne sat next to him.

Major league baseball was on the menu and the boys saw the Giants play the Braves at the Polo Grounds on August 9 after a morning practice at Yankee Stadium. The practice featured an intra-squad game with pitchers Ken Fingeroid and Don Ferrarese starting for the respective clubs and looking impressive as did pitcher Jimmy Ehrler of San Antonio.  Ray Schalk’s team lost to Occar Vitt’s team 2-1 and the loudest hit of the game was a triple of the bat of K Chorlton of Seattle. That evening, they were back at the Radio City Music Hall for the show.  In those days, the price of admission included not only the floor show featuring the Rockettes, but also a movie.  The floor show was called “Melody Time” and featured dancer Paul Haakon, soprano Marjorie Williamson, and the symphony orchestra playing Rimsky-Korsakow’s “Capricio Espagnol.” On that particular night, the movie was “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer”, an innocent piece of fluff starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Rudy Vallee and 17-year-old Shirley Temple – all grown up.  The film was in the midst of its World Premium run and the four stars were at the theater that evening, according to Bobby Hoeft of the U. S. All-Stars, and seated two rows in front of the players. It was announced that Shirley Temple would be attending the Hearst Classic the following Wednesday night.

On Sunday August 10, there was no practice, but the agenda was full. A boat ride around Manhattan Island was followed with an excursion to the amusement park at Coney Island. On Monday, the boys, after another intra-squad game, departed up the Hudson River for the annual trip to West Point and the Bear Mountain Inn. On the evening before the game, they saw “Annie Get Your Gun” starring Ethel Merman on Broadway.

Manager Ray Schalk was in awe of his strong and talented players. “My goodness, these boys must have been eating raw beef to get into shape for this game. They’re big and rugged. If they can hit a ball as far as fellows their size should, then these short Polo Grounds fences will be a cinch for ‘em.”[iii]

The 1947 Hearst Classic was played on August 13, and the Class of 1947 produced nine major leaguers.  Playing for the U. S. team, which won a lopsided 13-2 decision, both New York runs scoring in the final inning, were three men who would be reunited in the 1960 World Series – Gino Cimoli, Dick Groat and Bill Skowron. After New York pitcher Mike McCarron pitched a scoreless first inning, the U. S. All-Stars erupted for four second inning runs against McCarron and three third inning runs to open up a big lead. One of the big blows for the visitors was Skowron’s eighth inning inside-the-park homer of Rudy Yandoli, the first home run in the short history of the Hearst Classic.

The game was the highest attended in the history of the classic, as 31,232 attended the game which featured a Golf and Baseball exhibition by Babe Didrikson-Zacharias, an appearance by boxer Rocky Graziano, and a performance by the Clown Prince of Baseball, Al Schacht, who had also performed at the 1946 Hearst game. Also in attendance was flyer Bill Odom who had recently set a new record by circumnavigating the globe in 73 hours and five minutes, and tennis player Alice Marble. Prior to the game, there was a music and drill exhibition by the Raymond A. Garbarina Memorial Post 1523 drum and bugle corps.For the great Didrickson-Zacharias, who hailed from Denver, it was her first look at a big league ballpark. As she noted, “I’m going up for myself to have a gander at what a major league park looks like. I had never seen a big league game nor park before last night (August 11) and before I start telling people that I’m apt to knock a drive out of the Polo Grounds, I want to see that place!”[iv]

Rabbit Maranville was back at the helm for the New York All-Stars and had help from coaches Frankie Crosetti, John “Red Corriden, and Dick Rudolph. The Rabbit prior to the 1946 game had said this about Al Schacht. “Wherever Al goes, he brings with him all the side-splitting humor of baseball. No big league World Series is official without him and we felt the same way about our own game. That’s why we were so tickled when Schact informed us today (August 9) that he will participate. We had Al on hand for our New York City sandlot championship game last year (1945). That was the one which made a success of the Journal-American’s first (local) sandlot program.”[v]

Once again, top umpires were involved. This time around, Dolly Stark, who had been an arbiter the prior year, was joined by American League umpires Charlie Berry and Hal Weafer.

And the game was televised in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and Schenectady with Bob Stanton and Jim Stevenson, the Giant announcers, at the microphones.

Steve Ellis served as Master of Ceremonies.

The icing on the cake was one of the last public appearances by the game’s honorary chairman, Babe Ruth.  Ruth took his seat at the start of the third inning of the game and was accorded a standing ovation that stopped the game. His lateness was due to his accepting a series of engagements that would tire the healthiest of men.  He was late due to two prior engagements. First, he had visited the bedside of a sick youngster in New Jersey. He then, before heading to the Polo Grounds, made appearance at New York’s amateur boxing finals where he signed more than a few autographs.[vi] The Babe was interviewed during the slugfest by Jack Conway of the Boston Daily Record.  Ruth proved himself to be quite the prognosticator when he said that “I would not hesitate to predict that a least a half-dozen of the 23 boys on the United States All-Stars will be in major league baseball within three or four years.”[vii]

Don Ferrarese

Left-handed pitcher Don Ferrarese of Alcanes High School in Lafayette, California, represented Oakland and was selected the game’s MVP. His high school career had been sensational.  He never lost a game and struck out an average of two batters per inning.[viii] In his senior year, his six wins included a no-hitter, four one-hitters, and a two-hitter. He and Alameda’s Ken Fingeroid earned the trip to New York by starring in the annual all-star game at the Oakland minor league ballpark.  Ferrarese hurled all nine innings, had 12 strikeouts, and was credited with the win, as his County All-Stars defeated the City-Catholic All-Stars 6-5.  He also had a pair of singles in the game.  Fingeroid also pitched the complete game for the Catholic All-Stars, striking out 11.[ix]

The Hearst papers sent Ferrarese, Fingeroid, and the two San Francisco players, Cimoli and Reno Cheso on the trip of their lives. First, Ferrarese and Fingeroid accompanied the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League to Hollywood where they met several celebrities including Maureen O’Hara and Joan Crawford. Then it was up to Vancouver and across Canada and on to New York.  They left San Francisco in cool weather and were not prepared for the heat wave that they encountered when they arrived in New York.  On the afternoon of game day, August 13, the temperature was expected to approach 95 degrees. One thing Ferrarese remembers is that the uniform that he brought along with him was an old woolen softball uniform that was not quite as nice as some of the uniforms worn by his teammates.

Ferrarese and Fingeroid first saw action during an intra-squad scrimmage on August 9, and Don also performed during the team’s final tune-up on August 11. He did so well during practice sessions that he earned the start in the Hearst Classic. He remembers that, “In the week leading up to the big game, we played two inter-squad scrimmage games at Yankee Stadium. In the first game, I struck out six or seven of the nine players I faced and said, ‘Hmm, this is really fun.’ I just let it all sink in. It was a dream coming true. So on the day of the second inter-squad game, I struck out another six or seven or something.  I was on fire. Nobody was hitting me.”[x] Manager Ray Schalk said, “That boy Ferrarese has just about the sweetest control for a young lefty that I’ve ever seen.”[xi] In the second practice, he allowed only one unearned run in five innings of work.[xii]

In the Hearst game, he pitched three hitless innings, facing only 11 batters, and struck out six batters in gaining the victory.  At the plate, he contributed to the onslaught with a run-scoring double. After the game, he was carried off the field to the clubhouse in center field by Cimoli and Cheso. In accepting his MVP award, he said, “Thanks He also got to meet Babe Ruth. Ruth was quite ill with throat cancer and was barely audible, but he asked to speak with the game’s MVP.  Upon his return to California, Ferrarese was given a parade in which there were upwards of 113 cars.

Ken Fingeroid, Ferrarese’s travelling companion, was the fourth U. S. All-Star pitcher to appear in the game in New York.  In the game’s final inning, he was touched up for two runs but struck out the side, bringing the total number of strike outs by the U. S. staff to 16.

Ferrarese’s travels in 1947 were not through at the conclusion of the Hearst game. Although the Esquire’s Game had been discontinued, several of the sponsoring newspapers got together and sent a group of deserving young men to Chicago where they were treated like the All-Americans they were. The agenda included three days of watching baseball at Comiskey Park, and a meeting with baseball commissioner Chandler. Ferrarese was accompanied east by Bill Leiser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The highlight of the trip was the annual contest between the College All-Stars and the Chicago Bears. The sponsoring newspapers were hopeful of revising the All-American Baseball Game but their attempts would prove fruitless.[xiii]

Ferrarese enrolled at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, not far from San Francisco. During his time at St. Mary’s he roomed with Gus Triandos who, while Ferrarese was at the Hearst Game was preparing to travel east to play in Brooklyn Against the World. Triandos would play in the majors for 13 years and Don and Gus were major league teammates with the Orioles from 1955 through 1957.

Ferrarese started his minor league career in 1948, signing with Casey Stengel who was with the Oakland Oaks. He first played for Vince DiMaggio with their Class-C Stockton, California farm club, but, after walking 48 batters in 32 innings and posting an ERA of 7.31 in seven games, he was sent to Class D Klamath Falls, Oregon for the balance of the season. After another three minor league stops and a two year hitch in the Army, he made his major league debut with Baltimore in 1955.  He started the season with the Orioles and appeared in six games before being sent to San Antonio in the Double-A Texas League.  He got off to a 9-0 start and a 1.48 ERA with San Antonio and was promoted to Oakland of the PCL.  He returned to the majors in 1956 and played with five teams over the course of eight years posting a 19-36 record.

His major league career did have a few highlights. Ferrarese, like most pitchers, likes to dwell on his hitting prowess.  On May 26, 1959, he was pitching for the Indians against the White Sox at Comiskey Park.  He started that day and, in his three plate appearances, had three consecutive doubles.  The only pitchers in the American League who had done this previously were Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth. Nobody has done it since Ferrarese.  He pitched the first six and one-third innings that day, allowing no runs and three hits.

The May 26 contest was scoreless through four innings when he came to bat in the fifth inning with two outs and Woodie Held on second base.  Ferrarese’s second double of the game scored Held with the game’s first run, and Don came around to score on a double by Jimmy Pearsall.  Two innings later, with the score 2-0 in Cleveland’s favor, Ferrarese came up once again with Held on base and two outs and once again delivered a run scoring double to drive in Held with Cleveland’s third and final run.

Although, he had a three run lead and had allowed only three hits in his first six innings on the mound, Ferrarese was unable to complete the game. At the conclusion of the sixth inning, there was a 23 minute rain delay.  When Don took the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning, his arm had stiffened up.  Thus, when he allowed his sixth walk of the game with only one out in the bottom of the seventh, he was removed from the game and Jim Perry finished up the shutout.

After his baseball days, Ferrarese has been successful in business, and is still working in real estate in Apple Valley, California in 2015, sixty-eight years after appearing in the Hearst Game.

Gino Cimoli represented the San Francisco and was accompanied to New York by teammate Reno Cheso, U. S. All-Stars coach Oscar Vitt, Vitt’s wife, and sportswriter Walter Judge. The group departed San Francisco by rail on Saturday August 2 aboard the Twentieth Century Limited. It was the first train ride ever for Cimoli and Cheso. During a stopover in Chicago the boys saw their first major league game, and encounter between the Cubs and Cardinals on August 4. They also got their first dose of heat, as the game was played in 97 degree weather. The following evening, they were the first of the U. S. All-Stars to arrive in New York, and took in a game between the Giants and Phillies at the Polo Grounds. The following day, they saw former San Francisco Seal Larry Jansen in action as the Giants defeated the Phillies 5-2. The following day, Cimoli and Johnson met with Jansen. Vitt got more than a little attention during his time in new York and, appeared on one of the area’s top radio program’s “Luncheon at Sardi’s.”[xiv] He was interviewed by Frank Graham of the Journal American and said, “Great kids (Cimoli and Cheso). Walter (Judge) and I travelled hundreds of miles and looked over 6,000 sandlotters, and these are the best. You’s like them, I’m sure.”[xv] The first practice was held at Yankee Stadium on August 8.

Cimoli was better known for his basketball feats in high school. He only played baseball in his senior year, batting .607. He continued to excel at the Examiner baseball school, which opened on June 23, and was selected for the Hearst squad.  He opened eyes in New York during his team’s intra-squad game on August 11, slamming a double and a triple. After completing high school, he attended junior college and played semi-pro ball in the San Francisco area.  He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and his first year in organized ball was in 1949 when he split his time between Nashua, New Hampshire and Montreal.  He finally made it to the majors in 1956 and was selected for the National League All-Star team the following season.

When the Dodgers and Giants moved to the left coast in 1958, Dodger manager Walt Alston had Cimoli bat leadoff in the first ever West Coast game, when the Dodgers visited the Giants at Seals Stadium  in San Francisco. After 1958, Cimoli was traded to St. Louis, where he slugged 42 doubles.  From there it was on to Pittsburgh, where he was a member of the 1960 championship team (“They set all the records, but we won the game”).  By 1962, he was with Kansas City and, during 1962-1963 his 26 triples were the best in the majors.  He retired after the 1965 season, and took a job with UPS.

On the afternoon of October 17, 1989, Cimoli and his friend Big Ed Silva went to Epplers for coffee after Gino completed his shift at UPS.  Then the rumbling began, as San Francisco was experiencing one of its more turbulent earthquakes.  Gino and Ed ran out into the street and, in short order, the UPS truck became an ambulance.  Gino and Ed checked the houses along Scott Street.  Cimoli entered one of the homes and saved a woman who had been trapped on the third floor. He helped out other victims as well, travelling throughout the Marina area.[xvi]

Cimoli was one of two candidates from the San Francisco Examiner baseball school to be chosen to go to New York.  In 1947, once again, Oscar Vitt headed up the program, and was assisted by Johnny Verges, Walter Mails, and George Wolfman, coach at San Francisco’s Mission High School.  Further help was offered by former Coast League shortstop Bernie Deviveros, who gave an exhibition in sliding.[xvii] After one week, the field of hopefuls in San Francisco was cut down to 30 and two intra-squad games later, 15 young men were selected to represent San Francisco in the regional All-Star game at Seals Stadium. In the first of those intra-squad games, both Cimoli and Cheso doubled to make a good early impression. In the second of those games, Lloyd Dickey impressed the coaches by going 4-for-4 and pitching four innings. Lloyd signed on as a pitcher with the San Francisco Seals and played nine minor league seasons, mostly at the Triple-A level. His record was 82-73.

The baseball school was not only for the older kids.  The two week session in San Francisco attracted 5,000 enrollees ages 10-18, and some of those youngsters would return in subsequent years for a try at the big trip to New York.

So as to reach even more kids, the school, after two weeks on the playgrounds of San Francisco went on the road to various communities in Northern California. Walter Judge chronicled the “tour” through Santa Rosa, St. Helena, Petaluma, San Rafael, Vallejo, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Lodi, Stockton, and Exeter mentioning the names of so many hopefuls whose dreams would not outlast their teenage years. At Stockton, Vitt got his first glimpse of Al Facchini, who would be selected to go to New York in 1948, and who would play 10 seasons of minor league ball. At the completion of the ten city trip, Vitt and his associates chose the Northern California team for the big game at Seals Stadium.

The San Francisco and Northern California All-Stars squared off on July 20 at Seals Stadium.  While in San Francisco for the big game, the Northern California youngsters stayed at the Palace Hotel. Actor William Bendix was scheduled to be on hand to present awards and help out in roles ranging from batboy to coach.[xviii] However, due to a scheduling conflict, he had to withdraw, and actor Eddie Bracken came to entertain fans with his “The Rookie Pitcher” pantomime.[xix] The boys, prior to the big game, rubbed elbows with area sports celebrities at the San Francisco Press Club on Friday night and went to the dinner show at the Forbidden City Chinese Nightclub on Saturday.  The players’ uniforms came courtesy of the Pacific Coast League. League president Clarence “Pants” Rowland was en route to the game, but had to cancel when his flight was grounded in San Diego. The San Francisco team wore the home whites of the Seals and the Northern California team wore the gray road uniforms of the Oakland Oaks.[xx]

Among the 14 boys selected from Northern California was first baseman Wayne Belardi. Belardi was not selected to go to New York for the Hearst Game but would sign a bonus with the Dodgers and went on to play parts of six seasons in the majors with the Dodgers and Tigers.

On July 20, 1947, at Seals Stadium, the San Francisco All-Stars defeated their Northern California counterparts 8-0 in front of 15,000 onlookers. Cimoli stared in the game with three hits and three RBIs. He also excelled in the field at third base.[xxi]

The other San Francisco representative was Reno Cheso (his given name is Oliver Anthony Cheso). In the game at San Francisco, he reached base in each of his plate appearances (including two walks) and drove in a run with a single. His status for the game in New York became doubtful when he hurt his arm making a throw in one of the early practices. However, he mended by game time, and started the game at second base. In his first at-bat, he singled in two runs. He went back to San Francisco after the Hearst Game in New York.  Although he never signed on with a major league club, he enjoyed many seasons in the minors, mostly playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. In 1953, he had his best season with the Seals, he batted .297 with 11 homers and 80 RBIs. In eight minor league seasons, the infielder batted .286.

Dick Groat

Dick Groat, who also appeared in the 1948 Hearst Classic, was an All-American basketball player at Duke and one of two Hearst alums to play both major league baseball and NBA basketball.  He represented Pittsburgh in the Hearst Classic, by virtue of his performance in the Pittsburgh Sun-, Telegraph All-Star game at Forbes Field on August 5.  The game had been rained out when originally scheduled and the boys took to the field after a game between the Pirates and the Reds.  Among those involved in selecting the boys to go to New York was Ottie Cochran, a Pittsburgh businessman highly involved in Sandlot ball and Pirates’ great Honus Wagner.

Groat was representing the Swissvale Legion, and played for the “East-West” squad. As Groat stated, “I was fortunate enough to be one of two players picked to represent Pittsburgh both as a junior and a senior in high school in Hearst All-Star games in New York.  That’s how I knew I had special talent.  Scouts saw me both years but I turned them down when they offered me contracts after I graduated.  As much as my father wanted me to play major league baseball, he wanted all his kids to get college diplomas before doing anything else.”[xxii]

Actually, in 1947, Dick’s older sister tried to dissuade him from going to New York.  He went into the Hearst Game in Pittsburgh as a defensive replacement for John Caravola and singled in his first at-bat.  Then, with his team trailing by three runs and runners on first and second, he tripled to close the gap and scored the tying run in the top of the eighth inning.  The game was called after the completion of the top half of the eighth inning due to darkness.[xxiii]   The triple came off Joe Zugay, who had represented Pittsburgh in the 1946 classic.

After graduating from high school in 1948, Groat went to Duke University.  His first competition came during his sophomore year at Duke and he was off to a very good start.  However, he left school on February 10, 1950, missing the end of the basketball season and the entire baseball season in Durham.  He returned to Duke in the fall of 1950 and simply excelled during his final two years in college.

He earned first team Helms Athletic Foundation All-American status after his junior year in 1951, when he set an all-time collegiate scoring record with 831 points.  He put his squad into the finals of the Southern Conference tournament with a game winning shot against William and Mary, tying the tournament single game scoring record with 31 points.  In the final against North Carolina State, Groat, who was selected tournament MVP, once again scored 31 point to set a tournament record of 85, but the Wolfpack defeated Duke 67-63. Turning to baseball, he batted .386 and was named to the All-American team. That summer, he was offered a baseball contract by Branch Rickey of the Pirates but elected to return to Duke for his senior year.

He was named to the first team All-American squad and garnered the United Press Player of the Year honors in 1952.  On February 29, 1952, he wrapped up his regular season in basketball with a record performance, scoring 48 points as Duke defeated North Carolina before 7,000 fans who gave him a tremendous ovation as he left the game with 15 seconds left to play.  He averaged 26 points a game in his senior season at Duke, as the Blue Devils won their last 13 games of the regular season. [xxiv]  In the Southern Conference tournament, he scored the winning field goal as Duke edged Maryland in the quarterfinals.  He followed that up, tying his own tournament single game scoring record with 31 points as Duke defeated West Virginia 90-88, before losing the final against N. C. State.

Groat’s Duke team won its conference baseball title in his senior year and went on to play in the NCAA District 3 Tournament.  Wins against Tennessee and Rollins College put Duke in the finals against Florida University. Against Florida, Groat went 2-for-5 with a triple as Duke advanced to the NCAA Championship Tournament in Omaha with a 4-3 win.  Coach Jack Coombs in his final year at Duke led his team to Omaha and in the first game, with Groat getting three hits, the Blue Devils trounced Oregon State 18-7.  Losses to Penn State and Western Michigan ended the team’s dream of National Championship.

He had promised to sign with the Pirates after he had completed his basketball and baseball careers at Duke. Not long after his final collegiate game on June 14, Groat signed with the Pittsburgh.  He joined the Pirates at the Polo Grounds on June 17, 1952 and saw his first action the following day.  He batted a team-leading .284 in 95 games and finished third in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting.

After the 1952 season with the Pirates, he returned to Duke to finish his degree and played 25 games with the Fort Wayne Pistons of the NBA.  The next two seasons were spent in the Army and he rejoined the Bucs in 1955.  He remained with Pittsburgh through 1962, batting .300 or more on three occasions.  In 1960, he batted a league leading .325, was selected for his second All-Star team, and was voted the National League’s MVP, as the Bucs won their first pennant since 1927 and their first World Series since 1925.

He played with the Cardinals from 1963 through 1965.  In 1963, he led the National League in doubles with 43 and finished second in MVP Balloting.  In 1964, he picked up his second World Series ring as the Cards defeated the Yankees in the World Series.  He also was named to the last of his five All-Star teams.  After his playing days, Groat returned to the Pittsburgh area, pursuing two sports related interests.  He and Pirate teammate Jerry Lynch built and ran the Champion Lakes Golf Course in Laurel Valley, Pennsylvania and Dick did commentary for the University of Pittsburgh basketball broadcasts.

Bill Skowron, known to his legion of fans as “Moose” hailed from Chicago.  The Weber High School senior earned his way to New York by winning the Herald-American’s “Home-Run King” Contest in March, 1947, and prior to coming to New York in 1947, played in a game in Milwaukee featuring all-star teams from Chicago and Milwaukee.  In the August 1 game at Milwaukee’s Borchert Field, Skowron, already known for his home run hitting, played shortstop, as the Milwaukeeans defeated the Chicago squad 10-7.  In the game in New York, Skowron was a headliner when his eighth-inning inside-the-park homer to deepest center field was the first home run in the history of the Hearst Sandlot Classic.  He launched the ball beyond the reach of New York’s Steve Hamersky, and it rolled all the way to the wall. Skowron was called safe at the plate by umpire Berry, his head first slide bearly beating the catcher’s tag.[xxv]

Skowron went on to play collegiately at Purdue and in 1950, his sophomore season, set a Big Ten Conference record with a .500 batting average (20-for-40).  He also led the conference in total bases, amassing seven extra-base hits.[xxvi] He only played one varsity season at Purdue. He signed with the Yankees in 1950, and tore things up on the farm. In 1952, at Kansas City, he hit 31 homers with 134 RBIs and a .346 batting average.  Believe it or not, they made him stay another year in Kansas City.  He began the 1953 season with an 18 game hitting streak.  In 1954, he was called up and played with the Yanks for nine seasons.  He finished his career in the National League with the Dodgers.  Over the course of his career, he had 211 homers.

Chicago’s other representative in 1947 was chosen at the annual Herald American All-Star game on July 1 at Comiskey Park. Floyd Brown’s City squad defeated Lou Lange’s Suburbanites 4-0, and starting pitcher Eugene Nelson of Fenger High School was chosen to accompany Skowron to New York. Nelson had led his school team to the Chicago city championship in 1945 and 1946. The only reason that his team did not win in 1947 was that his coach decided to give another hurler the start. By the time, Nelson entered the game in the second inning, his squad was behind 2-0. He held the opposition scoreless, but his team was unable to mount a comeback.[xxvii] A crowd of 13,988 (8,779 paid) looked on as the kids took the field after the White Sox and Tigers had completed their American League contest. Nelson, in five innings, allowed only three hits and struck out four. He helped his cause at the plate with a third inning leadoff single and came around to score the his team’s first run of the game. American League umpires Jim Boyer, Art Passarella, Cal Hubbard, and Ed Hurley officiated. Boyer said of Nelson, “That kid knew how to pitch. He had good stuff and poise.”[xxviii] For the August 1 game at Milwaukee, Chicago manager Ray Schalk named Nelson the starting pitcher, but Nelson was ineffective and absorbed the loss. In New York, Nelson got extra tutelage from Schalk, Vitt, and Yankees’ pitcher Spud Chandler. On August 13, he pitched two scoreless innings in relief, striking out two batters. He signed with the Cubs and spent five seasons in the minor leagues, posting a record of 28-37.

Skowron and Nelson were joined on their trip east by the Milwaukee representatives Ron Unke and Ed Granitz. The Broadway Limited arrived at Grand Central Terminal, and the boys made their way to the Hotel New Yorker. Unke, at age 15 was one of the youngest players on the field, and Granitz got the nod to start at shortstop on August 13.

Harry Agganis, of Lynn Classic High School, who made it to the majors with the Red Sox in 1954-55, represented Boston on the 1947 U. S. team.  He was born Aristotle George Agganis, and was called Ari growing up.  “Ari” became Harry. He earned the trip to New York going 3-for-4, including a triple, as his “Red Sox” team beat the “Indians” at Fenway Park on July 29[xxix].  In the game’s second year, the coverage in the Boston Daily Record increased and the teams (with real names this time around) were managed by A-listers.  The “Red Sox” were managed by Joe Cronin, who was assisted by Claude Davidson. Davidson was the head of the New England Sandlot League. The “Indians” were managed by Lou Boudreau, assisted by Bill Barrett. In the first practice in New York on August 8, he homered during batting practice and the next day, in the first intra-squad scrimmage, he deposited two balls into the seats. In the game in New York on August 13, Agganis walked in each of his two plate appearances before leaving the game after being spiked in the left shin while sliding into second base in the top of the third inning.[xxx]

After high school, Agganis went on to Boston University where single-handedly, he brought the school into national prominence.  Agganis, a 50-minute man, played offense, defense, and did the kicking. The biggest game of Harry’s football career came at Fenway Park against Maryland, ranked second in the nation. It was Saturday, Nov. 1, 1952.  The Terrapins had a simple game plan — injure Agganis. After several gang tackles his ribs were so badly banged up that he had to be helped off the field. X-rays showed nothing broken, but severe bruises made it painful to breathe and caused him to miss the next two games. The Terriers finished with a record of 17-10-1 in Harry’s three years at quarterback.  He was second-team All-American at quarterback, Agganis left B.U. holding school records for passing yardage, touchdown passes, punting average, and defensive interceptions. After the regular season in his final year at Boston University, Harry dominated the North-South Senior Bowl in Alabama, with Paul Brown as his coach. Agganis had already been drafted #1 after his junior year by the NFL powerhouse Cleveland Browns. They offered him a large bonus, and Coach Brown planned to make him Otto Grahams replacement.[xxxi]

However, Agganis signed with the Red Sox organization in November, 1952 for a bonus of $50,000. By signing when he did, he avoided the implementation of the new bonus rule that would have forced him to spend two years in the majors.[xxxii]  He was able to get some needed seasoning in the minors in 1953, batting .281 with 23 home runs and 105 RBIs at Class-AAA Louisville. In 1954 he made his Boston Red Sox debut and batted .261.  The future was bright and he was en route to the most promising of careers, batting .313 in his second major league season, when he was hospitalized with what was diagnosed as a massive pulmonary embolism.  He died six weeks later at the age of 26.  Red Sox general manager Dick O’Connell always felt the beating he took in the football game against Maryland in 1952 contributed to his death.

He came to New York with Walt “Huckleberry” Kearney, a third-baseman from Dedham, Massachusetts.  To get into the selection game at Fenway Park, Kearney had survived, with seven others, a tryout of 680 players at Braves Field in early July.[xxxiii] Kearney, in the game in New York, did not start, but when inserted into the game took full advantage, banging a long double in his first at-bat in the eighth inning.  Rabbit Maranville admitted that it was the “hardest hit ball of the entire game.”

Rudy Regalado

Rudy Regalado (Rudolph Valentino Regalado – his mother named him for the silent film star) was from Glendale, CA, and got into 91 games with the Indians from 1954 through 1956, batting .249.  His road to the Hearst Classic was not the easiest of paths.  His grandparents had come to Texas from Mexico and eventually settled in California.  His father was born in Texas, and his mother was from Mexico.  His father and mother worked hard and his father instilled his love for baseball in his children.  Rudy excelled at shortstop at Glendale High School, where one of his coaches was former Dodger Babe Herman, batting .561 in his senior year.

Rudy was accompanied to New York by Tom Riach, who was his best friend.  The two traveled on their train ride east with John B. Old of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.  Tom was an outfielder who signed with the Chicago White Sox, and played one season of minor league ball in 1952, getting as far as Class B.  After his playing days, he was very successful in the construction industry in Newport Beach, California and remained close friends with Rudy until Tom died in 2006.

After the Hearst Game, Rudy and Tom he stayed in school and played for legendary coach Rod Dedeaux at the University of Southern California.  Rudy batted .411 as a sophomore and .375 as a junior.  In his junior year, 1950, USC went to the College World Series.

While in college, Rudy joined the National Guard to avoid the draft.  After his junior year of college, his National Guard unit was activated and he went to Japan and Korea during the Korean conflict. Upon his return to the United States, he was playing semi-pro ball in Fergus, Minnesota and caught the attention of a scout for the Cleveland Indians.  He was signed by scout Cy Slapnicka and given a $10,000 bonus by the Cleveland Indians.[xxxiv]  Before signing, Regalado sought the advice of both his father and coach Dedeaux, and both told him that he should take the money.

Regalado was part of the Cleveland Indians’ 1954 American League championship team, and returned to the Polo Grounds for the 1954 World Series.  He came off the bench in each game of the Series, was the only Hearst Alum to appear in the 1954 Series, and went 1-for-3, with a pinch hit in the fourth game, as the Indians fell to the Giants.  One of his claims to fame was being a voracious reader.  He was known to complete a complete novel during a plane flight during his time with the Indians.  Most of his time in Organized Baseball was sent in the minor leagues. He appeared in his last major league game on June 1, 1956 and was sent down to Indianapolis in the American Association, where he roomed with Roger Maris and played alongside his former Hearst teammate Billy Harrell.   He batted .322 during the regular season and batted .500 in the Junior World Series, as Indianapolis swept Rochester, the International League champions, in four games.  The following season, with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, he put together a 26-game hitting streak and batted .306 for the season.[xxxv]

Over the course of seven minor league seasons, he hit .303, finishing up with Seattle in the PCL in 1960.

After his baseball career ended, he worked in television in San Diego for 25 years.

Harrell earned a second trip to New York by virtue of his play in the second annual All-Star game held at Hawkins Stadium in front of 1,700 onlookers. Harrell, playing for the Capital District All-Stars played a pivotal role in tying the game in the ninth inning. He singled, stole second base and went to third when the catcher’s throw sailed into center field.  He later scored on a throwing error when the Albany shortstop overthrew first base on a ground ball by the Capital District’s Cookie Sherwin. Albany won the game 3-2 on a balk in the tenth inning. Harrell and Sherwin, who combined for two of their team’s three hits, were selected to go to New York. Sherwin never played professionally.[xxxvi] The 1947 All-Star game in Albany was the last held to select players for the trip to New York.  In subsequent years, committees of coaches selected players and the lucky youngsters were informed via mail.

One of the New York pitchers on the short end of the thrashing was Bob Grim. Grim was high on Maranville’s list of candidates to start the game. On the eve of the game, the Rabbit said, “Grim showed himself a top-flight pro-prospect at the tryouts. But evidently he was nervous then, for he’s even better now.”[xxxvii] Grim pitched the third inning in the game after completing his junior year of high school, and went on to success with the Yankees, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1954 with a 20-6 record. Grim pitched in two World Series, was named to the All-Star team in 1957 and finished his eight year major-league career with a 61-41 record.  In that 1957 season, pitching exclusively as a reliever, he was 12-8 with a league-leading 19 saves and a career best 2.63 ERA.  He finished 16th in the MVP balloting.

Grim was born in Manhattan’s Yorkville section and his family moved to Brooklyn when he was three-years-old.  He went to Franklin K. Lane High School in the Woodhaven section of Queens where his high school coach, Bob Berman, taught him the subtleties of pitching. He pitched his sandlot ball for the Havenwoods in the Queens-Nassau Alliance, for whom he threw a no-hitter. He impressed managed Rabbit Maranville who stated, “He’s going to be one of the greatest ever to come out of this town.”[xxxviii] Grim, in 1947, also tried out for “Brooklyn Against the World” but was told “to come back in a year.  The Yankees got to me before the year was up.”  He was scouted by Buster Brown, Paul Kritchell, and Harry Hesse of the Yankees, and Hesse inked him to a contact the day after he graduated high school in 1948, and was on his way to the Bronx.[xxxix]

Hy Cohen

Another of the Hearst New York All-Star pitchers, Hy Cohen, was also signed by the Yankees, but had little success at the major league level.  Cohen attended Thomas Jefferson High School, but did not play baseball in High School as the school did not field a baseball team.  He did play football and was offered a scholarship to Columbia University by the legendary Sid Luckman. After his junior year of High School, Hy, who pitched his Sandlot Ball for the Royals on Brooklyn’s Parade Grounds, was encouraged to try out for the Journal-American All-Stars by sportswriter Al Jonas of the Journal-American, and his 6’ 5” size got everyone’s attention.  Prior to the Hearst game, Babe Didrickson borrowed Cohen’s glove when she did her pre-game exhibition.  Cohen’s father, who did not know much about baseball, was at the game and was seated right next to Babe Ruth.  He neither recognized the Bambino nor knew who he was.

In the game, Cohen followed Mike McCarron (who started, was knocked out in the second inning and was charged with the loss) and Bob Grim to the mound.  McCarron had entered the game with a 14-0 record for his team in New York’s Catholic Youth Organization league, but he was overmatched by the visitors during his second inning stint.  Cohen entered the game with his team trailing 7-0, pitched the fourth and fifth innings, and gave up two runs on two hits while striking out four. After graduating from Jefferson High School in 1948, he was signed by Paul Kritchell of the New York Yankees for a bonus of $750.  He spent a couple of years at Class-D in the Yankee organization, and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs organization after the 1949 season.  After going 62-45 in five minor league seasons, he got the call from the Cubs in 1955.  Seven games, 17 innings, and no decisions later, he was back to the minors, where he pitched until 1958, compiling an overall minor league record of 100-77. Arm trouble forced him to give up on his dream after finishing the 1958 season with Nashville. By then, he was living in the Los Angeles area.  He had relocated there when playing with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in parts of three seasons (1954-56). He received his degree in Physical Education from Los Angeles State in 1960 and embarked on a teaching career that took him to Birmingham High School in the San Fernando Valley where he also coached baseball and football for 30 years. He wound up switching from Phys. Ed to History and counts David Gregory of NBC News among his students.

But most of the players didn’t make it. Bill Hopper represented Pittsburgh in 1947 and, after college at Penn State, signed on with the St. Louis Cardinals.  One season of Class-D, and it was on with the rest of his life.

Jimmy Ehrler represented San Antonio, where he played his Sandlot Ball with the 7-Up bottlers. By the time Ehrler entered the game in New York, the contest was decided, but he pitched effectively in relief, striking out three batters.  On his trip to New York, Ehrler was accompanied by Rene Urbanowich.  Rene was playing for South San Antonio in the San Antonio major league when he was selected to go to New York. Ehrler gained some renown during his college days at the University of Texas, pitching the first no-hitter in the history of the College World Series, defeating Tufts 7-0 in 1950.[xl]

Neither made a significant impression in the ranks of organized baseball.  Ehrler signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1951 and spent most of the next two seasons (1952-53) in the Army at Fort Sam Houston. After leaving the Army, he made it as far as Triple-A Louisville for a brief stay in 1954.  He was back at Class-A Montgomery in 1955, and that is where the dream ended for him at age 25.  He had gone 12-11 in 57 minor league appearances.   Urbanowich, although he was never signed to a big league contract, kept competing for many years.  He first hooked on with Harlingen in the Class C Rio Grande Valley League in 1950, and also played in the Class B Big State League in 1954-55 with Harlingen and Austin.   In 1960, the catcher was playing for the Kelly Air Force Base in the Spanish-American League.

Bobby Hoeft

Bobby Hoeft (not to be confused with pitcher Billy) represented Detroit, and his 4-for-4 performance in an intra-squad drill at Yankee Stadium on August 11, earned him a slot in the starting lineup for the big game on August 13. He signed with the Tigers, on October 2, 1947.  He played minor league ball beginning in 1948, but only made it as far as Class-C. While in the Navy in 1953 and 1954, he played against many major leaguers including Willie Mays. After being released from the Navy, he played one last season of minor league ball in 1955. In time, Bobby Hoeft became quite well known in his native city. A super-fan of the Tigers, he publishes the “Detroit Tigers Quarterly”, a newsletter. He has served as the pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and, in 2002, authored a book entitled When Baseball was Fun.

In an email interview with Tom Owens, Hoeft remembered that wonderful experience in 1947 when he was selected to play in the Hearst Classic.

“After moving down from the farm (in Moltke, Michigan) to the lower east side of Detroit I became a center fielder for as many teams as I could squeeze into a 24 hour day. That’s why in 1947 it was natural for me to be found on Belle Isle with another thousand Detroit amateur players trying out for the Hearst All American Baseball Team. The first step was to make the cut on the Island. The next step was to make the cut the following week at Northwestern field.  Not only did I make the cut at NW I managed to hit a ball out over Grand River!  The last step was to play on the City All-Star team against a Michigan All-Star team at Briggs Stadium. I had a field day, stealing three bases, including home, getting three hits and making a solid “country catch” in center field.

That night I shook hands with Charles Leonard Gehringer! What a thrill! He was the manager of the out-state team and was given the honor of calling up the two winners. The place was slightly jammed.  For the Out-state team read off “Jim Engleman from Pontiac, Michigan, and the place went starkers. Jimmy went up to the speaker’s table to accept the honor.  After the crowd settled down the great Charley Gehringer cleared his throat and said:  ‘And representing Detroit will be that home plate stealer, Bobby Hoeft, from Southeastern High School.’

I can still hear my Dad’s whistle.  I can still feel Charley’s handshake.  And I can see my Mom crying. The place was the Book Cadillac hotel where the Quiet Man and I met several times and where this East Side kid would cherish every word that this man directed my way.”[xli]

Hoeft and Engleman were accompanied on the trip to New York by sportswriter Edgar Hayes of the Detroit Times who sent story after story back home.  Fifty-five years after the trip, Hoeft remembered it all, including the shows he saw and the people he met.  The first order of business upon arriving in New York was meeting his manager Ray Schalk, coach Oscar Vitt, and his fellow teammates.   When he went 4-for-f to earn his spot in the starting lineup.Later on during his stay in New York was his team’s final intra-squad game at Yankee Stadium on Monday, August 11. It represented his first meeting with the team’s other coach, Honus Wagner.

From the dugout, Hoeft took in the entirety of the majesty of the cathedral in the Bronx.  “My eyes started going up and up and up and up at the most majestical architecture in the history of baseball. The right field pavilion, from where I was standing in the dugout, reached right up and touched the sky! My eyes drank in every detail my ears drank in every sound, and my nose drank in every aroma of this Utopia!  Voices were shouting all around, echoing back and forth in this cavernous ballpark.  The sun split through the clouds from somewhere up there in the heavens, and just like that this giant field is drenched in glorious sunshine.”[xlii]

Manager Schalk took to calling Hoeft “The Little Giant” after Bobby performed well in the practice in the Bronx, going 4-for-4.[xliii] Hoeft started the game on August 13 in center field and was involved in two plays that helped his team secure the victory. At the plate, he went 1-for-3 with a double in the fourth inning that ignited a two-run rally to put the US All-Stars up by a score of 9-0. In the bottom of the same inning, he gunned down a runner trying stretch a double into a triple leading off the fourth inning.

Richard Saunders was the first player of color to represent New York in the classic.  The switch-hitting first baseman represented the Police Athletic League and had graduated from Dewitt Clinton High School.  Al Jonas of the Journal-American devoted a column on the 17-year-old on August 5, but the youngster did not get any pro offers.[xliv]

K Byron Chorlton

K Byron Chorlton represented Seattle in the Hearst game and showed significant promise. Chorlton was no stranger to Kids’ All-Star games, having participated in each of the four All-Star games in Seattle, dating back to 1944. His parents named him K after a cousin, who was christened Kermit, a name he despised. Kermit, an FBI agent, began using a solo initial, a tag passed on to his young relative.

Early on, the Seattle media took to calling him K “Frank Merriwell” Chorlton.  He entered Roosevelt High School midway through his sophomore year in high school, and in his first game as a pitcher, he threw a no-hitter. He would be the starting pitcher in the Seattle All-Star game in 1946. He was also a basketball phenom, leading the school to a 32-2 record over his last two years, highlighted by s State championship in his junior year.  He also played for the football team, but his chiropractor father refused to allow him to be tackled, so he handled punting duties. The kicking assignment didn’t prevent him from scoring touchdowns on consecutive weeks following a bad snap and a fake punt. When the school’s track team challenged the baseball nine, K won both the 100- and 200-yard dashes.

After graduating from Roosevelt, he played for the King-Pierce County team in the annual Seattle Post-Intelligencer All-American event on July 14, and was selected to play in the Hearst game in 1947.

Hype for the doubleheader in the days preceding the event was substantial and the players for the Statewide team were housed at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle. Among the State All-Stars was outfielder Russ Rosburg, who had represented Seattle in 1946. Event organizers, always on the lookout for the unusual, scheduled, between games of the evening doubleheader at Sicks’ Stadium, a one-inning game pitting nursery school kids against residents from the local old-age home. It was “Yesterday’s All-Americans” against “Tomorrow’s All-Americans, with Father Time calling balls and strikes. On the evening prior to the doubleheader, the boys dined with members of the Seattle Rainers of the Pacific Coast League. In the doubleheader, each of the 36 players had an opportunity to start in one of the games.[xlv]

On the afternoon of the game, the kids participated in several field events, showing off their speed and Chorlton excelled, winning the 50-yard-dash, and the race around the bases. He was scheduled to start the second game that evening. Fireworks lit up the evening sky between games of the doubleheader and the only bit of disappointment during the festivities was a rain storm that began during the exhibition between the toddlers and the old guys, limiting the “contest” to one-half inning. It was great fun as the kids came on to the field on a float in the shape of a giant shoe, reminiscent of the “old woman who lived in a shoe.” The oldsters took to the field in automobiles rivaling the players in age. The rain continued as the players took the field for the second game and the contest was played in a constant downpour.

The Seattle team swept their opponents by 2-1 and 8-5 margins in the pair of seven-inning contests. Center fielder Rosburg, scheduled to start the first game, injured himself just prior to the game and was unable to play in either game. His place in the lineup for the first game was taken by Chorlton. In that first game, pitcher Bob Peterson of the State squad limited the Seattle boys to two infield hits (a slow roller and a bunt) which were all they needed. The first hit came off the bat of Chorlton who stole second base, advanced to third base on a fly ball. A walk put runners on the corners and Seattle executed a double steal with Chorlton scoring and tying the game. Chorlton contributed to the rally that scored the winning run, executing a sacrifice bunt and reaching safely when the catcher overthrew first base. That was vital, as the lead runner advance to third and Chorlton wound up at second. The next batter flied to center field and the center fielder gunned down the runner trying to advance from third to home. Chorlton advanced to third base and scored the winning run on a wild pitch. Peterson, who pitched in hard luck, went on to be named the alternate for the trip to New York, but he did not play professionally.

Chorlton went on to further stake his claim for the New York trip in the second game. He drove in his team’s first run with a ground ball and then doubled home a run that put his team up 3-2 in the third inning. In the fifth inning, when his team scored three runs to take a 6-3 lead, and error on a Chorlton grounder brought in two of the three runs scored in that frame. In the seventh inning, Chorlton swatted his second double of the game but was cut down trying to steal third base. Nevertheless, he wound up the doubleheader with three hits, two run scored, two RBIs, and three stolen bases, and a fielding gem at third base in the second game.[xlvi]

Chorlton received the official word that he had been chosen to go to New York at a luncheon held on the afternoon of July 15. After receiving word from Toastmaster Torchy Torrance, Chorlton said, “It’s thrill I’ll never forget and I want to congratulate every one of the boys for their fine play and good sportsmanship.”  The fourth time was the charm for Chorlton whose pitching made him an alternate in 1944. He was also named alternate after starting at third base in 1945. He had also played in 1946.

In addition to Peterson, four youngsters received honorable mention.  They were Louie Soriano, Bob Andersen, Leon Mangia, and Jack Armitage.[xlvii] Armitage played only one season of minor league ball, 1950, but what a year it was. He batted .342 with 38 extra-base hits for the Globe-Miami Browns in the Class-C Arizona-Texas League. That league ceased operation after 1950. Armitage was expected to join Idaho Falls in the Class-C Pioneer League the following season but was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. His career in organized baseball was over.

At the game in New York, Chorlton met Joe DiMaggio. At the time, the Yankees outfielder was recovering from a knee injury. Chorlton recounted the meeting during a newspaper interview in 2004. “I admire you so much,” the teenager told the star. “I wish I had your legs,” DiMaggio replied. Chorlton had the opportunity to show off his speed in the first intra-squad game, booming a triple past Gino Cimoli, who was stationed in left field during the scrimmage.

At the conclusion of the game in New York, Chorlton put some comments together in an article that appeared in the following day’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He said, “I am still in a whirl over all of the exciting events of the past few days. Things have certainly been coming fast. You already know how our team beat the New York boys 13 to 2. There was a big crowd and I was lucky enough to drive in a run with a single and steal a base. It was a lot of fun playing in it. But today (prior to the game), I had another great thrill. The New York Yankees invited me to work out with them. I played center field in practice alongside Joe DiMaggio. It was pretty wonderful for a Seattle boy to be chasing flies with the great DiMaggio showing me pointers. The Yankee players were all swell. I’ll never forget it a long as I live.  After the workout, I sat in a box seat and watched the New York team beat Philadelphia. I only wish all of the fine kids who played in the Seattle game could have been with me.”[xlviii]

Chorlton was scouted by the Boston Braves, Detroit Tigers, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and Washington Senators. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Chorlton went on to play basketball and baseball at the University of Washington, where he, in 2001, was named to Washington’s All-Century team. In 2004, the Seattle Times named him the top Roosevelt High School athlete of all time and he was inducted into the school’s sports hall of fame the following year.
On June 30, 1949, he signed on with the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League for $10,000, and was sent to their Vancouver Capilanos farm team in the Class-B Western International League that July.  With his terrific speed, Chorlton often batted leadoff for Vancouver. He became a fan favorite.

“One of the prettiest local sights on a summer’s evening is that of Chorlton scudding around the base paths out at the ball park,” Eric Whitehead wrote in the Province. “Graceful as a young gazelle and about as speedy, Chorlton would rate a quick boost up the ladder if he could only develop the elusive knack of getting on the base paths more often.”

In 1950, after batting .333 in 249 at-bats, with 10 doubles, six triples, and four home runs for the Victoria Athletics in the WIL, he appeared with Seattle in 70 games. He began the 1951 season with Seattle and was managed by Rogers Hornsby, one of the more difficult managers for whom to play. Hornsby could be hard on the media as well as on his own players.

One play effectively shattered Chorlton’s dreams of a major league career. He dropped a routine fly ball in left field. An infuriated Hornsby immediately removed Chorlton from the game and the angry youngster, after a nasty exchange of words with his manager, exited the dugout and stormed straight to the clubhouse. This further infuriated Hornsby who had a standing rule mandating that players stay in the dugout once removed from the game.  The next day, Chorlton was with Tacoma in the WIL, effectively blackballed by Hornsby.[xlix]  Later in the season, he was sent to Vancouver. Chorlton returned to Seattle in 1952, playing for new manager Bill Sweeney, but he would never advance beyond the Pacific Coast League. After an unproductive 1952 season, he was returned to Vancouver for the last two seasons in organized baseball. In his final season with Vancouver (1954), he batted .349 with a career-high 16 home runs, but his fate was sealed.[l]

After his death in 2009, Tom Hawthorn wrote about Chorlton, stating that, “The ball player showed speed, a steady bat, and good if occasionally suspect fielding. But what many fans first noticed was his name, K, which K Chorlton insisted be spelled without a period.”[li]

Chorlton became a salesman and later a sales executive for a company selling fuel additives. He remained active in the Washington Athletic Club, where his Rainiers jersey is on display to this day. After the death of his wife, Diane, he discovered romance again with Gloria Ehrig.  He died of pneumonia on March 17 at Bellevue, Wash. He was 80. He left four children, 10 grandchildren, and a sister.

Three players, in addition to U. S. infielder Billy Harrell and New York starting pitcher Rudy Yandoli, had returned for a second consecutive appearance in the Hearst game in 1947. John Martin, Al Scacco, and Gene Muller played for the New York team. Martin and Scacco did not attract much interest and went unsigned. Muller signed on with the New York Giants. In a career interrupted by service during the Korean War, he played in 1950 and 1953 at Class-C, appearing in 243 games and batting .259. Another New York player, Joe Della Monica concluded the youth game hat trick. His appearance in the 1947 Heart Game followed appearances in the 1945 Esquire’s Game and the 1946 Brooklyn Against the World contest.

And Rabbit Maranville kept doing clinics in New York. On Thursday August 14, he conducted a clinic at Yankee Stadium with Charlie Dressen , Don Johnson and Bobby Brown.  Two days later he was back at the stadium with Yankees Frank Shea, Allie Reynolds, Bobo Newsom, and Bob Johnson. He would champion the need for schools, clinics, and improved facilities for as long as he could speak.[lii]

 

 

Chapter 9

  Brooklyn Against the World – 1947

Played in a Heat Wave

The Newspaper headlines in the Brooklyn Eagle spoke of increasing tensions in the Middle East as young men from 20 cities in three countries descended on Brooklyn to represent the World team in the second Brooklyn Against the World Series. Games were played on August 15, 16, and 17 at Ebbets Field. And the heat wave that had greeted the players who came east for the Hearst game had lost none of its intensity.

The World team in the 1947 contest featured a catcher who would move up to the big time.  He had a passed ball during the game, something for which, unfortunately, he became known during his days with the Baltimore Orioles.  Gus Triandos of San Francisco’s Mission High School batted cleanup in the first game of the series, going 0-for-3.  He was signed by Joe Devine of the Yankees and saw limited experience with the Bombers during the 1953 and 1954 seasons.  Prior to the 1955 season, he was part of a colossal deal with Baltimore, involving 17 players.  He spent eight years with the Orioles, banged 142 homers, and was named to three All-Star teams.

The third game starting pitcher for the World team in 1947 was left hander Cleveland’s Moe Savransky. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1948 and got off to an unbelievable start in his third minor league season with Columbia in the Class-A Carolina League.  His first game was a no-hitter, and his second game was a one-hitter (a bunt).[liii]  He finished with a 15-7 record with Columbia in 1950 and continued to move up the ladder, making it to the majors in 1954.  He appeared in 16 games in relief. His major league career was over at age 25.

Once again, Brooklyn Against the World had well-known managers.  The Brooklyn squad was led by Arthur C. “Dazzy” Vance, and the World team was led by John L. “Pepper” Martin.  What did Vance do as a player? To quote Tommy Holmes of the Brooklyn Eagle, “He was the greatest Dodger pitcher of all time. That’s all.”[liv]

The series was played during the continuing heat wave and a record high temperature of 93.6 degrees was reached toward the end of Game One. The teams split the first two games of the series with Brooklyn winning the opener 7-5, behind the pitching efforts of Carl Maloney and Bob Sundstrom. Both would go on to sign major league contracts. Maloney, who hailed from Oyster Bay, Long Island, signed with Giants and during his third minor league season went 17-9 at Sunbury, Pennsylvania in the Class-B Interstate League. That was as good as it got for him. He went on to pitch three seasons at Class-A Jacksonville, but he would leave baseball after the 1954 season. Sundstrom, who signed with the Dodgers after playing for coach Jimmy Wagner at Brooklyn Technical High School, experienced arm problems early on in his career, and the put together a 15-5 record at Class-C Geneva New York in the Border league in 1949. His campaign included a league leading 2.39 ERA and five shutouts. The following season, he was 4-3 in Class-A, before being shipped off to Pueblo in the Western League, where his brief career ended.

The World came back to win the second game 2-1, in an abbreviated contest. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the clouds opened up and the field was deluged. Although the contest was held in Brooklyn, the hosts batted first in the middle game of the series. Thus, by this point, the game was official. Play was stopped and by the time the rain halted, the field was deemed unplayable. There were none out and the bases were loaded when everyone was sent home. The key hit in the contest came off the bat of Porfirio Espinosa of Havana, Cuba in the bottom of the fourth inning. After the World had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Brooklyn kids tied the score with an unearned run in their half of the fourth inning.  Espinosa came up with runners on second and third and two out.  Espinosa hit a sharp single to left field scoring Montreal’s Danny Caduc from third with the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Neither Espinosa nor Caduc played in organized baseball.

The starting pitcher for the World in Game Two was Frank Stewart from St. Paul, where he attended Stillwater High School,[lv] and appeared to be headed back to the University of Minnesota where he starred not only on the diamond but on the gridiron and basketball court as well. He pitched a masterpiece, striking out the first two batters he faced and allowing only one hit, an fourth inning infield single by Dan Daum. In five innings of work, he struck out six and was credited with the complete game victory. The Dodgers wasted no time in signing the hurler who had registered four no-hitters in high school and American legion play. He was sent off to Santa Barbara in the Class-C California League in 1948.[lvi]  After two years in the Dodgers’ organization, he was traded to the Braves and spent the next two seasons toiling at Denver in the Class-A Western League.  In his best season, 1950, he was 11-7 with Denver.  He missed two years serving in the military and in his last season, 1954, he was 4-5 at Lincoln.

Daum, the right fielder who spoiled Stewart’s no-hit bid in 1947, signed with the Dodgers and proceeded to move up in their system, batting .293 and .284 in his first two full seasons. It was then off to the military for a couple of years after which he batted .361 at Class-D Union City, Tennessee in 1953 and .255 at Class-B Newport News, Virginia in 1954. But 1954 would be his last season.  The Dodgers were fully stocked with outfielders at all levels and Daum’s future would be in something other than baseball.

Martin chose Savransky to pitch the climactic third game for the World team against Brooklyn’s Victor Barbella. Moe was up to the task.  The skies were threatening again and the crowd was only 5,376. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning when Ralph Gebhardt legged out an infield single on a slow roller to Savransky. Moe allowed only one other hit, a solid single by Jim Felton, in his seven innings of work, as the World won 4-0. Felton did not play professionally. Barbella, who fell victim to defensive lapses by his mates, was charged with three second inning runs and absorbed the loss.

Brooklyn’s Gebhardt, whose infield hit spoiled Savransky’s no-hitter, did not play professionally. He played collegiately at Holy Cross and saw his hopes of a future in baseball doomed by a devastating shoulder injury. After baseball, he took over the family’s restaurant, and became involved in tennis.[lvii]

Tony Pellarin came on in relief and struck out six World batters in 4 1/3 innings. Pellarin attended St. Francis Prep, where he pitched two no-hitters, and went on to Seton Hall University, where he never lost a game. He earned his spot on the Brooklyn team by excelling in a tryout at Ebbets Field on July 25. One of his no-hitters in high school was a classic pitcher’s duel.  He was matched up against Rudy Yandoli of St. John’s Prep, who had been the starting pitcher for the Journal-American All-Stars in the 1946 Hearst Game, and appeared in the 1947 Hearst game as well. There was only one run in the game and it was scored against Pellarin’s squad.  Tony lost despite throwing a no-hitter.  Rudy allowed only two hits in his win.[lviii] Years later, their paths would cross again. By then, Pellarin was working with an auto finance company. He looked up from his desk and Yandoli, who was behind in his payments, was seated across from him. Pellarin remembered his old nemesis and worked out an arrangement allowing Yandoli to keep his car.

Pellarin was scouted by Ed McCarrick, who also served as Executive Secretary of the Brooklyn Amateur Baseball Foundation. He tried out with Branch Rickey looking on, and signed with the Pirates in April, 1952. H was assigned to Burlington-Graham in the Class-B Carolina League. His first and only appearance that season came on April 20.  He started and pitched 3 1/3 innings in a 7-2 against Raleigh. About a week later, before he could pitch again, he was off to the Army.  He injured his arm in the Army and when he came out of the Army in 1954, spent an inactive few weeks with Burlington, getting into shape, before being reassigned to the Dublin Irish in the Class-D Georgia State League.

He pitched in only one game, on July 8. He entered the game in the fourth inning in relief of Bob Long. At the time, his team was trailing 4-1. He pitched the last six innings as his team came from behind with three eighth inning runs to win 7-5. His professional record was 1-1. But he was pitching in pain and decided to move on with his life.  He returned to New York’s Long Island, married his girl-friend, went into the auto financing business, and raised five children. Almost 70 years after his appearance in Brooklyn Against the World, he cherishes many memories including his children, 13 grandchildren, and his first great-grandchild born in 2015.

Dick Spady of Omaha pitched the final two innings for the World in 1947 and did not allow a hit. Spady was signed by the Dodgers and moved up through the ranks. Appreciative of the opportunity he had been given, Spady donated $500 of his bonus from the Dodgers to his local American Legion post to promote baseball.[lix] In 1951 and 1952, he won 10 games each season at the Class-B level and then received his draft notice.  He missed three seasons but returned in 1956 to post an 11-8 record at Class-A Pueblo, Colorado. However, there was no opportunity for further advancement and Spady was out of baseball at age 26.

The leading batter in the series was Bud Ware of Toronto.  The first baseman had four hits in eight at-bats, including an infield single in the second inning of the third game that ignited a three-run rally. He eventually signed with the New York Giants but only got as far as Class-D in the minor leagues.

The Chicago Daily News sent Joe Naples to the games in Brooklyn.  He was chosen for the honor by Rogers Hornsby who was serving again as the director of the Chicago Daily News Free Baseball School.  Naples was a shortstop who had batted .455 in his senior year at Chicago Vocational High School.[lx] Although not signed by a major league team, he pursued his baseball dream to Class-D ball in 1949 playing in the Alabama State League and the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League.  Over the course of the season, he batted .234 and the reality of his not necessarily being the next Marty Marion set in.

In Montreal, tryouts were held throughout the province of Quebec and on July 19, a contest was held between an English speaking team and a French speaking team to determine which player would be heading on to Brooklyn for the big event.

And for Brooklyn which lost the series 2-1, it was “Wait Till Next Year!”

After completing the series the Brooklyn kids to the road, playing in Kingston, New York against the Hudson Valley All-Stars. The upstate team was not without talent. Clark Mains, a pitcher, signed with the Giants and was 34-25 in three minor league seasons, and Jake Charter batted .288 in three minor league seasons in the Chicago White Sox organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Lewis Burton, “Record Crowd Sees U. S. Sandlotters Win,” New York Journal American, August 14, 1947: 24.

[ii] Bobby Hoeft. When Baseball was Fun: A Baseball Memoir (Xlibris, 2002): 57.

[iii] Kouzmanoff, “U. S. Prep Stars in first Drill for National Series,” Chicago Herald-American, August 8, 1947: 23.

[iv] Jeane Hoffman, “Babe Didrikson Plans Thrills for Sandlot Fans at Polo Grounds,” New York Journal American, August 12, 1947:18.

[v] Rabbit Maranville, “Schacht to Entertain at Hearst Classic,” Chicago Herald-American, August 10, 1946: 10.

[vi] Edgar C. Greene, “Babe Still ‘Do as I Please’ Guy,” Chicago Herald-American, August 14, 1947: 24.

[vii] Jack Conway, Jr. “Sandlotters Back; Hail Keany Clout”, Boston Daily Record, August 15, 1947, 40

[viii] Al Jonas, New York Journal-American, August 14, 1947, 22

[ix] Gene Perry. “Ferrarese, Fingeroid Voted Winners of P-E’s N. Y. Trip”, The Oakland Post-Enquirer, August, 1947

[x] Todd Anton, Big Leagues – Bigger Heart: Personal Life Stories of Major League Pitcher Don Ferrarese (Victorville, CA, Don Ferrarese Charitable Foundation, 2014): 55

[xi] Kouzmanoff, “U.S. All-Stars in Final Drill  for N. Y. Sandlotters,” Chicago Herald American, August 12, 1947: 16

[xii] Al Jonas, “Final Drills for Classic,” August 12, 1947: 20.

[xiii] Al Warden, Ogden Standard-Examiner, August 20, 1947: 10

[xiv] Walter Judge, “Cimoli, Cheso See Jansen Win; Say Seals Better Than Phillies,” San Francisco Examiner, August 7, 1947: 23, 25.

[xv] Frank Graham, “Visit with Oscar Vitt,” New York Journal American, August 6, 1947:21.

[xvi] Fitzgerald, San Francisco Chronicle, May 7, 1990, and Interview with Lorraine Vigli

[xvii] Judge, “It’s Field Day for Little Guys,” San Francisco Examiner, July 1, 1947: 21.

[xviii] “Bendix Joins Baseball School!” San Francisco Examiner, July 6, 1947: 23.

[xix] “Bracken in Cast for Kid Classic,” San Francisco Examiner, July 15, 1947: 19.

[xx] Judge, “Examiner Game Players to Enjoy Royal Fete, San Francisco Examiner, July 16, 1947: 17.

[xxi][xxi] Judge, “15,000 See Stars Win,” San Francisco Examiner,” July 21, 1947: 20.

[xxii] Peary: 157

[xxiii] Bill Heyman, Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, August 6, 1947: 22

[xxiv] Jack Horner.  Durham (NC) Morning Herald, March 1, 1952: II-2

[xxv] Lewis Burton, “Record Crowd Sees U. S. Sandlotters Win,” New York Journal American, August 14, 1947: 24.

[xxvi] “Skowron, Boilermaker Sophomore, Sets Conference Batting Record,” Daily Illini, June 8, 1950: 5.

[xxvii] Rabbit Maranville, “Chicago Schoolboy Looms U. S. Stars’ Hill Ace in Sandlot Classic,” New York Journal American, August 1, 1947: 16.

[xxviii] Dan Desmond, Chicago Herald-American, July 2, 1947: 17.

[xxix] Alex MacLean. “N. Y. Sandlot Finals for Agganis, Keany”, Boston Daily Record, July 30, 1947

[xxx] Jack Conway, Jr. “Agganis is Injured in All-Star Classic,” Boston Daily Record, August 14, 1947: 27.

[xxxi] Nick Tsiotis and Andy Dibilis, Harry Agganis, The Golden Greek

[xxxii] Mark Brown and Mark Armour, “Harry Agganis”, SABR Bio-Project

[xxxiii] Boston Daily Record, July 19, 1947: 33

[xxxiv] Steve Johnson. “Rudy Regalado” in Pitching to the Pennant: the 1954 Cleveland Indians: 110-112.

[xxxv] Earl Keller. “Rapper Rudy Well on Way to Coast Loop Swat title,” The Sporting News, July 17, 1957: 33

[xxxvi] Stanley Levine. “Albany All-Stars Subdue Area Stars in 10th, 3-2,” Albany Times-Union, June 23, 1947: 8.

[xxxvii] Al Jonas, “Grim Looms as Met. Stars’ Hill Starter,” New York Journal American, August 9, 1947: 12

[xxxviii] Kouzmanoff, “Maranville High on N. Y. Preps,” Chicago Herald-American, August 11, 1947: 20.

[xxxix] Don Zirkel.  North Country Catholic (Ogdensburg, NY), August 27, 1954: 6

[xl] Miami (Oklahoma) Daily News-Record, June 16, 1960: 4.

[xli] Tom Owens. Baseball by the Letters Blog, December 27, 2011.

[xlii] Hoeft: 58-59.

[xliii] Al Jonas, “Final Drills for Classic,” August 12, 1947: 20.

[xliv] Al Jonas. “Met Sandlotters Have Ace Switch Hitter in Saunders”, New York Journal-American, August 5, 1947: 16

[xlv] Harold Torbergson, “All-American Stars Await Monday’s Games,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 13, 1947: 20.

[xlvi] Torbergson, “Seattle Junior Stars take Thrilling Games, 2-1, 8-5: State Drops Double Bill,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 15, 1947: 21-22.

[xlvii] Torbergson, “Chorlton All-American Winner: Versatile Star is Choice,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 16, 1947: 19-20.

[xlviii] K Byron Chorlton, “Drills with Yankees,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 15: 18.

[xlix] Dan Raley, Pitchers of Beer: The Story of the Seattle Rainiers: 150.

[l] David Eskinazi and Steve Rudman. The Wayback Machine, May 21, 2013.

[li] Thomas Hawthorn, April, 2009.

[lii] Rabbit Maranville, “Maranville Sees Need for More Coaches in Met. Stars Defeat,” New York Journal American, August 15, 1947: 16.

[liii] Ben Gould, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 26, 1950: 19.

[liv] Tommy Holmes, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 15, 1947: 10.

[lv] “World All-Star Nine Defeats Eagle Sluggers by 2-1 Count,” Brooklyn Eagle, August 17, 1947: 23

[lvi] Ben Gould, “Dodger Front Office Holds High Promise for Ex-World Hurler,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 28, 1949: 15.

[lvii] Ralph Gebhardt Obituary, February 1, 2016.

[lviii] James J. Murphy, “Pellarin’s No-Hitter Goes for Naught,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 16, 1947: 21.

[lix] Lincoln Evening Journal, October 11, 1947: 4.

[lx] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 3, 1947: 23

A Face at the 1950 Hearst Classic – Joe Nunziata

The headlines in 1950 spoke of the deepening crisis in Korea and many young men already or soon to be of draft age could not ignore those headlines as they descended on New York for the fifth annual Hearst Sandlot Classic.

Columnist Frank Graham dwelled on the game’s significance on August 23, 1950.  “Many of them, such as kids on the United States team from San Francisco and Oakland and Los Angeles and San Antonio and Seattle and Des Plaines, Illinois and Alice, Texas never had seen a major league ballpark until they saw the Polo Grounds and the Stadium and never had seen a major league game.  You take kids like that and bring them in and show them around and you do things to them and you cannot even guess where it will take them.  But at least you know that all they are getting they have earned and that these are days that they will remember as long as they live.  And that what they are doing here tonight will benefit thousands of kids, less talented and less fortunate than they, whom they never have seen and never will.”[1] – Such was the vision of Max Kase the Journal American sports editor who had conceived of the Hearst Classic in 1946..

In 1950, the Hearst players, when not practicing, toured West Point, seeing the newly unveiled statue of General Patton, and saw two ballgames.  The first game was at the Polo Grounds on Friday August 18 and featured the Giants and the Phillies. The second game, at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday August 22, was a matchup between the Tigers and Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The boys had a Saturday night dinner in Chinatown. Sunday, the players found their way to Radio City and saw “Sunset Boulevard.” On the Tuesday evening before the big game, the players went to see a Broadway Show, “Where’s Charley” featuring Ray Bolger.[2]

The 1950 game was the highest scoring affair in the twenty years of the Classic as the U. S. All- Stars won 13-11, coming from behind as 21,241 fans came out to see the game. It was a veritable slugfest that lasted three hours and 55 minutes, and had 46 young men take to the field.

The New Yorkers, with a seven-run fourth inning, had assumed an 8-1 lead.  As the game entered the eighth inning, the score was 9-3. The visitors retaliated with seven in the top of the eighth go out in front 10-9. The New Yorkers still had life.  Second baseman John Keenan of Woodhaven, Queens, reached base when he led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a sharp single off Wayne Smallwood.  With two outs, Joe Nunziata of Brooklyn walked and the runners advanced on a passed ball.  Sal Aprea, who ws chosen the game’s MVP, hit his second triple of the game to regain the lead for the home team, 11-10. However, they squandered the lead in the ninth inning, allowing the U. S. Stars to score three runs and gain a 13-11 triumph.

Joe Nunziata, of the New York All-Stars who had walked ahead of Sal Aprea’s eighth inning triple, went on to sign with the New York Giants and played during the 1951 season at Oshkosh in the Class-D Wisconsin State League. The following season, he was to be back with Oshkosh, but he did not recover well from off-season groin surgery, and was released by the Giants in April, 1952. In 1953, he signed on with Green Bay, another team in the Wisconsin State League.[3] However, he never got to play with Green Bay as he was drafted and entered the Army in early April, 1953, and for a time, was stationed in Korea.

He joined the New York Police Department in 1957, and served for a time on a mounted patrol. His name popped up in one of the more interesting stories in the annals of local history, and his story was included in Prince of the City Robert Daley’s tale of the New York Police Department in the early 1970’s. In the film directed by Sidney Lumet, which was part fact and part fiction, the character Gino Mascone was based on Nunziata, and the role was portrayed by character actor Carmine Caridi.

In 1964, Nunziata joined the Narcotics Division, and became friendly with Detective Edward Walter “Eddie” Egan of “French Connection” fame. Gene Hackman’s “Popeye” Doyle character was based on Egan and both Egan and Nunziata appeared briefly in the award-winning motion picture about the case. He worked with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

In 1971 Nunziata was amongst the first of the officers to be assigned to the Joint New York Narcotics Task Force. His death, ruled a suicide, in March 27, 1972 came in the midst of an investigation into corruption and the taking of bribes by members of his unit. Indeed, he was scheduled meet with Nicholas Scopetta of the Knapp Commission on the day on which he died. His wife Anna contended that he had been murdered.

Subsequent to his death, his name became connected, inaccurately, to the theft of several bags of heroin and cocaine (398 pounds in all) from the Police Department’s Property Clerk’s Office.[4] Much of this heroin and cocaine had originally been seized during the case on which the “French Connection” film had been made. After Nunziata’s death, the investigations into the theft of the heroin, said to have taken place between 1969 and 1972 linked his name to that of Mafia Kingpin Vincent Papa. Nunziata’s signature, likely forged, appeared in the records of the property clerk’s office. The stolen drugs had a street value estimated to be as high as $70 million. Did Nunziata actually remove the heroin and upon returning the pouches substitute flour for drugs? There was no conclusive evidence condemning or exonerating Nunziata, who had died before the scope of the thefts had been determined. Did someone forge Nunziata’s signature? Was he murdered or did he commit suicide? The investigation into the matter lasted into 1974.

On March 8, 1974 federal indictments did come down against 12 individuals in the police department. Nunziata, who had died almost two years before the indictments were issued, was not indicted posthumously. It was not determined conclusively if he ever took a bribe, but it was determined that his signature had been forged on several occasions. The indictments involved five overlapping cases and the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District, who first gained a degree of notoriety for his prosecution of these cases, was Rudolph Giuliani who later became Mayor of New York.[5] It eventually came to light that Nunziata’s only misdeed had been splitting, with his partner, a $4,000 bribe from a Federal informant only known as “Carlo Dandalo” to conceal the fact that Dandalo, who was facing charges himself, was fleeing the United States. Who was this Carlo Dandalo? It appears he was actually a federal undercover informant of dubious character posing as a criminal seeking a favor.[6] This bribe was a sting operation orchestrated by a less than honorable Federal Narcotics official named Andrew Tartaglino. Investigators were looking to question Nunziata about the bribe when he allegedly took his own life in 1972. Nunziata’s partner was eventually placed on probation for two years.[7]

Sources:

In addition to the sources shown in the notes, Sal Aprea and Jon Keenan were interviewed for this story.

[1] Frank Graham, “Sandlot Kids at the Polo Grounds,” New York Journal American, August 23, 1950, 37.

[2] San Antonio Light, August 22, 1950, 14-A

[3] Green Bay Press-Gazette, February 17, 1953: 45.

[4] James M. Markham. “One Name on 5 Slips in Police Drug Theft,” New York Times, February 2, 1973: 1.

[5] Paul L. Montgomery. “12 on Drug Squad are Indicted Here,” New York Times, March 9, 1974: 1.

[6] Daley, Robert. Prince of the City: The True Story of a Cop Who Knew Too Much, (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1978): 127-141.

[7] “Detective Here gets Two Years on Probation for Taking Bribe,” New York Times, October 2, 1973: 15.

 

 

The Improbable and Fabulous Streak of Bill MacLeod

The name Bill Macleod is not known to most baseball fans. His major league career consisted of two short relief stints with the Red Sox at the end of the 1962 season. But for one season in the minor leagues he put together a record that was as enviable as it was unlikely.

How does the greatest single season winning percentage by a pitcher in the history of the Eastern League begin?
Well, in his first 9 1/3 innings with the Pittsfield Red Sox in the Eastern League in 1965, our hero allowed 11 hits and had an ERA of 8.69. Each of his four appearances had been in relief and each time he had not been involved in the decision. As late as May 12, it was not certain if he had a future with his club.

On May 20, manager Eddie Popowski gave MacLeod a start. By then, Billy had appeared in seven games, and his ERA still was high (6.92). He responded by yielding two first inning runs before settling down. He struck out 11, despite yielding 10 hits, and his teammates came from behind. When he left after 8 and 2/3 innings, he was in the lead 4-3. Reliever Gary Waslewski registered the final out and MacLeod had his first win of the season.
And so, what was to become an incredibly eventful season was underway – sort of. On May 24, MacLeod became, for three innings, the first base coach. Manager Popowski was a bit under the weather and first base coach Billy Harrell was moved to third base. MacLeod took over at first base. By the fourth inning, Popowski was feeling better and the Pittsfield coaching boxes were back to their regular alignment.

The next day, MacLeod was in vintage form recording his second win of the season. Now, vintage form is different things to different folks. MacLeod had a certain knack for hitting batters and he nailed two in this contest. He also prided himself on his hitting and went 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. He struck out nine batters and did not yield a run until the final inning as Pittsfield won 6-2. The hit was his first of the season and a harbinger of things to come.

On May 31, he once again took the slab against Springfield and got out of several jams before his mates put up a three-spot in the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out in the top of the eighth, he walked the bases full and came out of the game. Fred Wenz registered the last five outs to preserve the shutout and keep MacLeod’s winning streak intact.

His next game appearance was on June 6, but he didn’t throw a pitch. He came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and singled in a 7-3 loss to Williamsport. The next day, he started against York and just didn’t have his stuff. He was shelled and cameout of the game in the third inning trailing 4-3. But the bullpen shut down the White Roses and his mates scored a couple of sixth inning runs to take MacLeod off the hook.

And then came the win that got away. On June 25, Pittsfield visited Elmira. The game was a pitchers’ duel for the ages. Macleod was up against Ed Barnowski and the game was tied 1-1 after nine innings. In the top of the tenth inning, Barnowski weakened and came out of the game as Pittsfield pushed across the lead run. Unfortunately, Macleod also was tiring. He retired the first two batters but walked pinch-hitter Eddie Watt on four pitches. Watt advanced to second on a wild pitch and a single by Mark Belanger tied the game. MacLeod came out at that point. Fred Wenz retired Johnny Scruggs for the final out of the inning, and the game went on and on and on. After 21 innings, the game was still tied, 2-2 as pitchers Mario Pagano for Pittsfield and Dave Leonhard for Elmira each worked 11 scoreless innings. At that point, the game was stopped.

On June 29, Pittsfield faced Springfield in another battle for Massachusetts supremacy. In the first game of a doubleheader, MacLeod was nothing short of perfect – for the first 11 batters. He didn’t yield a hit until the fifth inning and left the game after five innings with the lead. Fred Hatter pitched the final two innings and MacLeod had his fifth win of the season and still no losses.

The next two wins were messy affairs, but a win is a win.

On July 3, Springfield gift-wrapped five unearned runs over the first six innings, and MacLeod had just enough in the tank to complete five innings before Springfield mounted a serious rally. When that rally came in the form of a four run sixth inning, Wenz once again came to the rescue, entering the game with two outs and going the rest of the way.

On July 7, it was more a matter of luck and some well-timed hitting that gained MacLeod his seventh win. MacLeod most definitely did not have his stuff and barely survived the first inning. He was pounded for five hits but only gave up two runs, as Reggie Smith gunned down the potential third run with a throw from center field. Two runs was not much against a lineup that included the likes of Smith and George Scott. Smith tied the game with a two run homer and after Pittsfield had taken the lead MacLeod homered leading off the seventh inning to extend the lead to 4-3 and a two-run homer by Scott closed the scoring. Macleod came out of the game after surrendering two hits in the eighth inning and Fred Wenz once again shut down the opposition to earn a save as was credited with a save. And MacLeod’s once stratospheric ERA was down to 3.79.

That ERA would go even lower (to 3.49) in his next start, arguably his best performance of the season. He allowed a first inning run on two hits and then mastered the opposition Reading squad, at one point retiring 20 batters in a row. His complete game win was over in a hurry – two hours and three minutes. He struck out nine and walked not a single batter in recording his eighth win of the season.

Not only was MacLeod on fire but the Pittsfield Red Sox were in a pennant race. His next win on July 16 once again against the Reading Indians, brought Pittsfield to within a game of the league leading Elmira Pioneers. Through eight innings he had scattered three hits, while his mates built up a 6-0 lead. Reading got to MacLeod for three ninth inning runs but it was too little, too late as Macleod who struck out a season’s high 12 batters notched his ninth win of the season without a loss.

He kept things going with his tenth win against York on July 20 and then four days later pitched his fifth complete game of the season to defeat Elmira 4-2. At Elmira, he pitched three perfect innings before surrendering two fourth inning runs on three hits. The key hits in the rally were a single by Mark Belanger and a double by Lou Piniella. After that, it was lights out for Elmira, and rally-time for Pittsfield. MacLeod was a big part of the come-from-behind effort. His second homer of the season plated Pittsfield’s first run of the game in the sixth inning. Pittsfield manufactured three runs in the eighth inning to take the lead for good.

On July 28, he went for his seventh win in July and came up a tad short. He took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning and got into a jam. Wenz came in to put out the fire, but yielded a hit that put Williamsport in the lead 3-2. MacLeod was in danger of having his streak stopped but his mates tied the score in their half of the ninth. However, Wenz was not able to capitalize on the reprieve and yielded a run in the tenth inning giving Williamsport the win.

MacLeod‘s record for the season as July came to a close was 11-0. His six straight wins in July secured him the Eastern League Player of the Month Honors.

Another month came and so did the wins. On August 1 at Elmira, MacLeod allowed only four hits in a seven inning complete game, beating Elmira 3-1. It was his 12th win of the season, and his sixth complete game. But the best was yet to come.

Pitching on only two days rest Bill was tested at Springfield on August 4, and succeeded mightily. He retired the first 13 men to face him and then was victimized by a double off the bat of Jim McClain. In that fifth frame, he also issued two walks and the bases were loaded with two outs. He got out of the jam by striking out the opposing pitcher Matt Gayeski. Over the last four frames, it was 12 up and 12 down and MacLeod had a one hit shutout, his mates scoring nine runs to give him his 13th win.

By August 8, it was no longer a secret that something special was going on. On that date, Pittsfield hosted Elmira and MacLeod won his fourteen gave of the season without a loss. Somebody did a little checking and discovered that he had won the last four games of the prior campaign when the Red Sox Double-A squad was at Reading. His then 18 wins in a row eclipsed the Eastern League record of 17 that was set by Tommy Fine with Scranton in 1946. But MacLeod had no intention of slowing down, especially as there was a pennant race going on. The win was Pittsfield’s ninth in ten games and put them one-half game ahead of Elmira in the league standings.

Pittsfield let one slip away on August 12, losing to York 4-2. Macleod started the game and was staked to a 2-0 lead which held up until the ninth inning. Going into the frame, the score was 2-1 and MacLeod walked the first batter. At that point, he was removed for the seemingly infallible Wenz, but this time Fred did not come through. Wenz registered two outs, there were runners on first and third, and Fred was on the verge of another safe when York’s Mike Gardiner hit a fly ball in the direction of the right field foul pole. It sailed over the fence for a three run homer. Manager Popowski tried in vain to have the umpire reverse the call but the game was over. Wenz was charged with the loss and MacLeod escaped with his streak intact.

The fans were in a celebrative mood on August 20 when the Reading Indians visited Wahconah Park. It was manager Popowski’s 52nd birthday and in minor league baseball, that’s a cause for issuing invites to the fans, 2,038 strong. After the pre-game festivities which included a cake for the birthday boy, and an appearance by Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Minor League Baseball,” MacLeod took to the mound in search of his 15th win of the season. A three-run homer by George Scott provided the margin of victory as MacLeod went the distance, winning 5-2.
The next win was one of those “Nobody said this was going to be easy” affairs. The Williamsport Mets were in town on August 24 and, during the first six innings peppered MacLeod for nine hits that yielded three runs. In the early going, MacLeod helped himself out with the bat once again, driving in a run with a single to put Pittsfield up on top 3-2 in the second inning The issue was very much in doubt as the score was tied 3-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. At that point Pittsfield put a five spot on the board and MacLeod sailed on to win number 16 against those ever present zero losses.

Despite his 16 wins, MacLeod had only one shutout. That ended on the evening of September 2. He pitched the first game of a doubleheader against the Williamsport “not ready for prime time” Mets. He went all the way in the seven inning opener and his mates gave him all the run support he would need in the first inning as he allowed only four hits in a 5-0 victory. His nine strikeouts took him to 154 for the season.

So what did MacLeod do between his starts? Well nobody said he was limited to winning games with his arm. Indeed, he appeared in 16 games as a pinch-hitter. The day after his 17th win, he was summoned as a pinch-hitter in a crucial situation. It was that ever mythical scene when you come up with two out in the ninth inning with the winning run standing on third base. This time the opposition was provided by the Springfield Giants. Springfield’s top pitcher, Tommy Arruda, was looking for his 19th win and the score was tied going into the ninth inning. The count went to 1-2 against MacLeod and Arruda was one strike away from sending the game into extra innings. Bill took a swing and his ground ball just snuck past second baseman Tony Eichelberger. Pittsfield’s Al Lehrer raced home from third and the Pittsfield magic number was down to two. That hit brought his record as a pinch-hitter to 3-for-14 with two walks. MacLeod’s hit on September 3 made a winning pitcher at of reliever Fred Wenz who had factored into more than a couple of MacLeod’s wins.

That magic number was reduced to one after Macleod made his next start on Sunday, September 5 against Springfield. MacLeod went out in style. The game was close for the first eight innings, but Pittsfield broke things open with a seven-run ninth inning, and went on to win 9-0. In pitching his second straight shutout and fourth consecutive complete game, MacLeod surrendered only four hits and struck out three.

MacLeod’s miraculous season was over. The next day, in the last game of the season, Pittsfield clinched the Pennant. Nobody in the Eastern League has ever matched MacLeod’s perfect record with as many wins.

Bill was sitting on 22 consecutive Eastern League wins.

It was a streak that began innocently enough on August 25, 1964. On that evening, he tossed a four hitter as Reading defeated Charleston 4-1. Four days later, he defeated Elmira in the first game of a doubleheader 9-3, driving in a run with a sacrifice fly. His third win in succession came on September 2 when he defeated Charleston 10-5. He weakened in the eighth inning, perhaps due to his running out a triple as he went 2-for-4 at the plate. In his final start of the season, he defeated Springfield, 7-2, hurling his third complete game in four starts. Once again he was adept at the plate going 2-for-4. In his last four starts, he had gone 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA. With the bat, over this period, he went a non-too-shabby 6-for-14. He finished the season with a 12-6 record and a 3.11 ERA. The following season, Reading moved to Pittsfield and, for the first month of the season, MacLeod moved to the bullpen.

The 1966 season found him toiling in the International League. His season was not particularly successful. His record was 2-9 and his ERA was 4.68. One note of encouragement was that each of his wins came via shutout.
In 1967, MacLeod returned to Pittsfield. His first decision of the season came on May 14. He was pitching in relief that day and entered the game in the eighth inning with the score tied 5-5. In the tenth inning, his mates push across a run and he had his 23rd consecutive Eastern league win. Three days later, the streak came to an end at Reading. Once again MacLeod entered the game in the eighth inning and the score tied. Reading scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. He was with them Pittsfield through July 22, posting a 3-2 record, when he was sent to Indianapolis which that season was playing in the Pacific Coast League. Indianapolis was his last stop.

Sources:
Baseball-Reference.com
Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts)
Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican
The Sporting News
Author Interview with Bill MacLeod, March 8, 2016

Hearst Sandlot Classic – The Beginnings through 1946

Chapter 1

All They Need is a Little Encouragement

“All they need is a little encouragement, and they’ll be playing it as well as I ever did.” Those words were spoken by Walter “Rabbit” Maranville in 1949 at Yankee Stadium. By then, the Rabbit was a fixture in the New York area, conducting clinics for youngsters. And he gave those youngsters more than a little encouragement.

As the United States emerged from the Second World War, changes were inevitable and baseball was very important in communities around the country. Sandlot baseball leagues were a common denominator in these towns and cities and the best of the youngsters found their way to All-Star games in the nation’s major league ball parks.

This, primarily, is the story of one such All-Star game that continued for twenty years. Those twenty years were years of profound change in the United States. Our story begins in the mid-1940’s. Just think of it. No television, no fast-food restaurants, no interstate highway system, limited travel by air, and most people not straying more than 100 miles from their homes. In those days, baseball was the National Pastime and Newspapers and Periodicals informed the masses about the game and its players. The years would be one of profound cultural, social, and economic change.

Back then, each small town had its own newspaper and often more than one. In New York, the newsstands could boast of more than ten newspapers, and it seemed that with each passing hour, new releases with new headlines were being distributed. Big league baseball was played in but ten cities, none further south or west than St. Louis. And minor league baseball more than picked up the slack with small and not so small grandstands dotting the landscape in the far reaches of America.

Set against the backdrop of a country emerging from war, and entering into a period of prosperity, the Hearst Sandlot Classic, for 20 years, offered a showcase for young baseball talent. Many of those who participated signed professional contracts and others were able to obtain scholarships to further their education. Everyone who participated gained memories to last a lifetime.

Chapter 2

Esquire’s All-American Boys Baseball Game: 1944

Tilden, Nebraska Meets Detroit, Michigan

The Hearst Newspapers were not the first publishing group to sponsor an All-Star baseball game for the youth of America. With most of America being informed of news via newspapers and periodicals, it was not unusual for newspapers and periodicals, seeking to increase circulation, to sponsor baseball events. For three years starting in 1944, Esquire Magazine sponsored All-Star games for 16-17 year old players, using an East-West format. In 1944, players represented 29 of the 48 states, and by 1946, 33 states were represented. The game was the brainchild of Esquire’s David A. Smart. The first two Esquire All-American Boys Baseball Games were held at the Polo Grounds in New York, before that game was moved to Chicago in 1946. Esquire announced plans to drop its sponsorship in December, 1946.

The game was strongly supported by Organized Baseball, and the league presidents articulated their feelings prior to the 1945 game.

American League President Will Harridge: “Since baseball began, the lifeblood of our national sport has been the interest it always has held for the youth of our country. From the boys who started playing the game in the vacant lots, on the school grounds, and in the farm pasturelands have come the great players baseball has known- and those same boys will continue to build baseball in the years to come. Such an enterprise as the Esquire’s All-American Baseball game, therefore, is a splendid means of furthering the interest of our youth in baseball. With the teams to be selected on a nation-wide basis, thousands of boys will strive and hope, justifiably, for places on the all-star squads.”

National League President Ford Frick: “I particularly like the idea of ‘Living War Memorials’ As I understand it the aim is to provide facilities for athletic activity to encourage physical fitness. The name and fame of the game will thus express itself in tangible form and add to the incentive. Boys have played baseball in this country as far back as anybody now alive can remember. They don’t need encouragement to play. In my boyhood, I have seen the urge to play a ballgame, triumph over every obstacle that an inconsiderate world can throw in our way, but I believe that anything any grown-up can do to give the boys better ball fields and more bats and balls and gloves and suits is wonderful.”

Each city went about choosing its own representative. One of the sponsoring newspapers was the Kansas City Star which informed its readers that the top American Legion player would be going to New York. The key men involved in choosing the Kansas City representative were Yankee scout Bill Essick, who served as the commission of the American Legion league and Elton Caster, the Legion’s baseball chairman. They took their time evaluating the talent, and ballots were cast by each of the league’s managers. On the evening of June 30, an All-Star game was played at Ruppert Stadium, and on July 2, it was announced that Jim Propst would be heading to New York. Propst pitched three innings in the game in Kansas City and struck out five batters. In New York, Propst shined. In two practice games he was not scored upon and in the big game, he pitched hitless ball in the sixth and seventh innings. The left-hander went on to sign with the Yankees, and at the tender age of 16 pitched a complete game win for their top minor league affiliate in Kansas City in 1944. In all, he spent parts of eight seasons in the minors, mostly at Victoria in the Class-B Western International League.

The August 7, 1944 Esquire All-American Boys Baseball Game featured 29 boys from as many cities and was won 6-0 by the East squad in front of an announced crowd of 17,803 at the Polo Grounds. The attendance for the Monday afternoon encounter was higher than the 15,299 (13,847 paid) that showed up for a Giants-Phillies doubleheader the prior day. The managers in the game were none other than Connie Mack (East) and Mel Ott (West). Mack’s coaches were Al Simmons and Roy Mack. Ott’s coaches were Carl Hubbell and Bubber Jonard. During their time in New York, the boys got to see five big league games.
In a practice prior to the game, Hubbell pitched batting practice and commented, “We’ll be seeing them again, in major league uniforms. They are the greatest looking bunch of young ballplayers I’ve ever seen gathered in one ball yard.”

And there was more than baseball. The dream itinerary included accommodations at the Hotel New Yorker, complete with meals. On August 3, after a morning practice at the Polo Grounds, the boys spent the afternoon visiting the Statue of Liberty. The following day, after practice, it was off to the Empire State Building where their tour guide was none other than former New York Governor and one-time Presidential candidate Al Smith. That evening, the boys saw the ice show at the Center Theater.

Prior to the first Esquire game, there were festivities that kept the large crowd entertained. Featured were Abbott and Costello, actors Dana Andrews and Jay C. Flippen, baseball clown-prince Al Schacht, and the Gene Krupa Band. The umpires for the game were George Barr of the National League and Bill Grieve of the American League. Red Barber and Harry Wismer broadcast the game over a national radio network.

World War II was still very much going on (the game took place barely two months after D-Day) and 500 persons were allowed to see the game free of charge for their efforts in a city-wide drive to collect waste paper. Also participation in the game was limited to 16 and 17 year-olds who had yet to reach the draft age.

Both Ott and Mack shared comments that were included in the scorecards sold for the game.

Ott stated, “The All-American Boys Baseball game is a great contribution in the nation in wartime. This game takes me right back to the days when I was a youngster playing baseball on the corner sandlot. I am very proud that Esquire has invited me to be a manager of one of the All American Boys Baseball teams.”

Mack added, “Please accept my sincere thanks for the appointment to manage the Eastern team in the All American Boys Baseball game sponsored by Esquire. I deem it a privilege to aid such a worthy cause as the “living memorial” fund and will contribute what I can to help the boys and baseball as a whole.”

Although the East team managed only five hits, they were able to bunch their hits, and take advantage of their opponent’s miscues. Four of their runs were unearned. Chicago was represented by Charlie Perchak whose eye-popping fielding in a practice game caught everyone’s attention. East team manager Connie Mack was impressed enough to name him team captain. In the game itself, it was Perchak’s bat that stood out. He was the hitting star for the East team. He had three hits in the game, drove in the first run of the game in the opening inning, and scored during his team’s three-run fifth inning. He finished second in the MVP balloting. He signed with the Chicago Cubs, but got no further than Class B.

At the time of the game, the 81-year-old Mack was in his 51st season of managing. Although he did not participate in the practices in the days leading up to the game (long time scout Ira Thomas put the boys through their paces), and did not meet his team until the day of the game, he didn’t miss a thing. Chip Royal of the Associate Press recounted the goings-on. From the time the East went out for its pre-game activities, Connie never took his eyes off that diamond. He stood up at the top of the steps watching every move his boys, and the boys on the opposition team, made. Once, during the game, catcher Jim Nelson of Birmingham, Alabama thought a third strike had been called on the West team batter and lazily rolled the ball back toward the mound. There was a man on first base at the time. Mr. Mack, once the inning was complete, asked the young man to take a seat beside him and gave the boy a little fatherly talk about his actions with the ball when there are men on base. Nelson probably never forgot that conversation. But when the game was over, there was not a kid that did not receive praise from the manager. As Mack said, “They never missed a sign all day.” Nelson played six seasons of minor league ball, starting at Class-D Opelika in the Georgia-Alabama League. He went on to play in the Tigers farm system. His dream ended at Class-B Durham in 1950.

When outfielders Frank Azzarello of New Orleans and Herb Pollock from Columbus had a miscommunication, allowing a fly ball to land safely between them, Mack had the sit down as he dispensed advice. Azzarello signed with the Red Sox and played three seasons in the low minors. Pollock did not play professionally.

Another player who caught Mack’s eye (actually they all did) was Jim Winter from Cincinnati. The second baseman was the smallest player on the field. “That Winter boy has got a lot of spunk. H says he’s 16, but I bet he’s not any more than 13. Did you see him slide into that base?” Mack took Winter out of the game in the eighth inning so as to give playing time to John Moskal of Buffalo, New York. Winter was sitting on the bench. He had a splinter under one of his nails and was in a bit of pain. Mack exclaimed, “Goodness Gracious did you have that all the time?” After winter nodded yes, Mack told him to go to the clubhouse and have the splinter removed. Winter did not play professionally.
In the pre-game festivities, Babe Ruth limped up to the microphone at home plate and said that it mattered little which team won the All-American contest so long as it was played cleanly and hard.

Ruth met with several of the youngsters, one of who was Joe Fromuth from Reading, Pennsylvania. The lad, who had starred in an American Legion All-Star game at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park earlier that summer asked the Babe if he could tell him a joke. Fromoth went on to explain that runner run faster from first to second than they do from second to third because there is a ‘short stop’ between second and third. Ruth was amused. Fromuth went on to sign with the Red Sox and batted .334 with a league-leading 18 home runs and 103 RBIs in his first year of pro ball with Wellsville in the Class-D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. The next season would be his last as he batted only .194 in 29 games with Class-C Oneonta. He had some difficulty adjusting to the life of a ballplayer. As scout Charlie Wagner who had signed him, noted, “He simply did not want to adhere to the hard-living lifestyle of certan professional athletes. So he returned home, having proved himself as an athlete and as a person of high ethical and moral convictions.”

In those days, Ruth hosted a radio program sponsored by the A. G. Spalding Sporting Goods Company, and, on August 5, he hosted the boys, including Fromuth, on his program. Young Jim Enright of St. Louis asked the Babe how a player could learn to throw a ball harder and faster. Ruth replied, “Constant practice. Your arm won’t come up if you use it only once a week. You must practice hard every day. If you do, I’d say you will be able to throw the ball 20 feet further in a week.” Enright, a second baseman, never did play professional baseball.

Proceeds went to the Living War Memorials Commission of the National Committee on Physical Fitness. Community recreation facilities were built with the funds.
At game’s end, the youngsters in the stands mobbed the field to congratulate the players for an outstanding game and it wasn’t until twenty minutes later that the players were able to make their way to the clubhouse.

Before the game, a photographer snapped a picture of the starting pitchers with the managers, and the photo appeared in the August 17 edition of The Sporting News. A glance at the picture shows the East team’s pitcher wearing number 19. The pitching star of the East team, that number 19, known as “Mr. Zero”, due to his numerous shutouts, pitched six scoreless innings for the win, striking out seven and allowing only three hits. Hed was named the game’s MVP. Along with the award came a four year college scholarship. After the game, Billy Pierce spoke a sentiment that he shared with his teammates. “Gosh, we sure were lucky to have Mr. Mack as our manager. He’s the best there is.” He signed with the Tigers and pitched for them in parts of the 1945 (he pitched ten innings over five games during the season and got a World Series ring) and 1948 seasons before being traded to the White Sox, where he blossomed. In 13 years with Chicago, he went 186-152 with a 3.19 ERA. He was named to seven All-Star teams, and led his league in wins (20 in 1957), strikeouts (186 in 1953) and ERA (1.97 in 1955). At age 35, when it looked like he was slowing down, Pierce was traded to the Giants and his 16-6 record was vital as the Giants won the 1962 National League pennant. As for his number 19, it is one of ten numbers retired by the Chicago White Sox.

Pierce was a Detroit native and played on the sandlots with a team known as the Owls. His father, a druggist, was one of the team’s sponsors. Billy overcame wildness to become a successful high school pitcher. The school team received a great deal of coverage in the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, and before long, the scouts took notice. “In 1944, I went to New York for the Esquire amateur all-star game. I had never thought about being a major leaguer – I was taking Latin and physics in anticipation of becoming a doctor – but after going to the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field, I got more of a feeling of what it would be like. The Tigers were my favorite team and I signed with their head scout, Wish Egan, when I was still 17. I finished classes on March 15, joined the Tigers (for spring training), and then came back in June and got my diploma.” The college scholarship and plans for a medical career fell by the wayside.

The game featured a young man from Tilden, Nebraska at the catching position for the West Squad. He was sent east by the Omaha World-Herald, and Floyd Olds and Chip Bowley tallied the votes of the local coaches. The choice was virtually unanimous. Tilden is not exactly a vacation spot, but it does have a city hall (with a roof that leaks), a quaint corner filling station, and a baseball diamond with a sign over it that reads: Tilden Memorial Park. Richie Ashburn Field. Richie Ashburn would return to the Polo Grounds often during his major league career, covering the expansive center field at the old ballpark. In the early 1940’s, Tilden with a population of less than 1,000, had neither a high school nor an American Legion team, and Ashburn ventured to nearby Neligh, Nebraska where he played for coach Harold Cole. Cole said of his young star, “I consider Ashburn the best all-around catcher I’ve had in 14 years, and I’ve had some pretty good ones. He is smart, clean, and a fine sport in addition to being fast, having a fine throwing arm, and being a great hitter.”

The young catcher from Nebraska wore number 1, and was somewhat frustrated that Ott did not include him in the starting lineup, especially as The New York Times had announced that he would be starting. At the last second, Ott inserted Jim Pressley into the lineup and Pressley had troubles behind the plate during the first five innings as the East team built up a 6-0 lead. Observers such as Floyd Olds of the Omaha World-Herald and Ernest Mehl of the Kansas City Star maintained that two wild pitches and a passed ball charged to Pressley could have been handled by Ashburn. Thus, Richie’s performance in the Esquire game fell short of expectations. By the time he entered the game in the sixth inning, the game was out of hand. He played flawlessly behind the plate but went 0-for-2 with the bat. In his first at-bat he lined a ball toward the foul line in left field that was grabbed by Frank Azzarello of New Orleans. With two outs in the ninth, he hit a hard ground ball to shortstop that was converted into a force play for the final out of the contest.

Ashburn signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and never caught a game in the majors. His father Neal encouraged his becoming a catcher so as to facilitate his move to the big leagues. He also encouraged him to hit from the left side so as to take advantage of his speed. At the Esquire Game, East manager Connie Mack suggested that the young man become an outfielder. Not long thereafter, the youngster was moved to the outfield, and, 18 years later, Ashburn finished his Hall-of-Fame playing career back at the Polo Grounds with the 1962 New York Mets. As a major leaguer, Ashburn felt right at home at the Polo Grounds. He first appeared there during his 1948 rookie season. On May 29, in his 30th game of the season, he led off for the Phillies and his inside-the-park homer was the first of his 29 career homers. More than half of those homers (15 to be precise) came at the Polo Grounds, including his final six as a member of the Mets in 1962.

During his time in the majors Ashburn was notorious for hitting foul balls. On one occasion, as legend has it, he was playing with the Chicago Cubs. This was in 1960. Cubs’ pitcher Jim Brewer saw his wife walking in the stands towards to concession stands for a hot dog. Brewer pointed his wife out in the stands and asked Ashburn to slap a foul fall in her direction. Sure enough, the foul ball landed directly on Mrs. Brewer’s derriere.
At the end of each season during his career, Rich looked forward to returning to Tilden. There, he and his wife, Herbie, built what was then the finest house in town and raised their children, who Rich remembers had “a lot of the same teachers in school that I did.” Although the cost of living in Tilden was low, and he did not have to work during the offseason, he was a substitute teacher, coached and did some basketball refereeing. Ed Cram remembers that during the winter Rich would walk downtown and “visit with every old fellow he knew.” Ashburn found the pace of his old hometown to be soothing.
In addition to Ashburn and Pierce, Ervin Palica and Virgil Jester made it to the majors, and 19 of the 29 participants in the game went on to play professionally.

Jester, the starting pitcher for the West team in the Esquire game, and pitched in very bad luck never strayed far from his Colorado home. In the game in New York, he was the starting pitcher for the West squad and, of the six runs he allowed, only one was earned. He signed with the Braves organization in 1947. Most of his career was spent in the minor leagues, where his record was 70-60 in nine seasons, including a career best of 13-6 in 1951 with the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. That season, he worked almost exclusively in relief. During one three day span, from June 23 through June 25, he appeared in three consecutive games, going five innings, two innings, and four and two-thirds innings, respectively. Manager Charlie Grimm stated, after the June 25 game, “I’m lucky to have a guy like Jester. But he’s only human. He can’t keep on relieving every day as he has since Saturday (June 23). I wish he’d ask me for a day off to go fishing or something. I’d have to give it to him. He’s certainly earned a day of rest.”

After the 1951 season, the Brewers advanced to the Junior World Series where they took on the Montreal Royals of the International league. Jester saved his best for last. In the sixth and final game, after the Royals had taken a 10-2 lead, the Brewers came back to win 13-10 as ace reliever Jester, in the words of Red Thisted, “took over in the sixth and simply overpowered the Royals with his hard high one and sneaky curve, allowing just one hit in four frames to win the biggest game of the long campaign.”

Jester reached the majors in 1952 and went 3-5 in 19 games for the Braves. His final win, a complete game 11-3 triumph over Brooklyn was the last game ever played by the Boston Braves. He was with the Milwaukee Braves briefly in 1953, appearing in only two games without a decision before being sent back to the minors.

Palica hailed from Los Angeles and was the son of Austrian immigrants. Indeed, the family name was Pavliecivich. He had completed his sophomore year of high school in 1944 when he was selected to play in the game at the Polo Grounds. He was accompanied to the game by reporter Braven Dyer. Arriving a day late, Palica did not do well in the practices before the game and entered the game late. He pitched the final inning for the West team and despite two wild pitches, did not allow the opposition to score. He was signed by Tom Downey of the Dodgers in 1945 and played professional ball through 1963. His best season was 1950, when he went 13-8 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Palica came from a baseball family. He was the youngest of three brothers to play professionally. Oldest brother Ambrose “Bull” Palica pitched 14 seasons in the minors and had a 163-99 record. Alex, who was a year and a half older than Erv, pitched five minor league seasons and was 47-48. Erv’s son Wayne was signed by the Twins in 1979 and pitched four minor league seasons and Erv’s nephew John, an outfielder, also signed with the Twins and batted .267 in five minor league seasons. After baseball, Erv became a longshoreman and died in 1982.

Jack Lindsey

One of the West team players, shortstop Jack Lindsey, made his way from Dallas, Texas to New York by rail, accompanied by Lewis Cox of the Dallas Times-Herald. Lindsey, according to The New York Times game day edition was the first player selected. During their week in New York, the players met with former New York Governor Al Smith, saw “Oklahoma”, and appeared on Babe Ruth’s radio program that was sponsored by A. G. Spalding. Each of the players received a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth. In the game, Lindsey had one of the six hits for the West team. After the game, he was taken on a road trip by the New York Giants. The Giants made him an offer, but he decided to go to the University of Texas. He was scouted by Wid Matthews of the Dodgers while playing at the University of Texas. After a year of college, he signed with the Dodgers’ Montreal farm club, but before joining the Dodgers went into the Navy.

He was released from the Navy late in 1946 and went to his first training camp was in 1947. The team was training in Havana that year and he played on a squad with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Chuck Connors, Gene Mauch, and George Shuba. His path to the majors was blocked by Pee Wee Reese, and he played in the minors through 1954, getting as far as Class- AAA. His best AAA season was at Montreal in 1950 when he batted .263. Jack remembers there being 26 farm clubs in the Dodger organization at the time. He was a part of a Fort Worth team in 1951 that set an outfield assist record with Gino Cimoli, Frank Brown, and Bill Sharman gunning down runners. After his playing days, Lindsey went into the insurance business. At age 87 in 2014, he was “still golfing, still dancing, and having a good time.”

Vic Picetti

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that on August 2, 1944 at 10:13 AM that Vic Picetti had smashed out his first double in a practice session at the Polo Grounds, and predicted stardom for the youngster from the Rincon Hill section of San Francisco, who had attended Mission High School.

To select its representative to the Esquire’s Game, the San Francisco Chronicle sponsored an All-Star game featuring 30 of the area’s finest players. Picetti, who was about to enter his senior year of high school, had come out on top. Bill Leiser of the Chronicle, who oversaw the balloting of the 14 judges, summed up his feelings about Picetti. “The dumbest judge of baseball talent, merely noting his conduct on the field, his flawless handling of all chances, his presence in the right place at all times, his full game without a sign of a bobble or a wrong play, and his two sound doubles in four trips, would know that as a high school kid, he’s a champion.”

Vic was not only the West team’s first baseman, but also served as a correspondent of sorts for the San Francisco Chronicle. He was accompanied on the trip by Leiser of the Chronicle (who referred to himself as Picetti’s bat boy) and Leiser used his column on August 11 to convey Picetti’s thoughts as he was heading home by train after the trip East. Picetti became friendly with several of the players including Virgil Jester, Roger Brown of Minneapolis, Leo Reming of Boston, Herb Pollock from Columbus, Ohio, and Pat Wohlers from Portland, Oregon. “It seemed I had known them for years. They were all fine ball players and fine friends. The best part of the trip was meeting them and going around with them in New York.” And there was one other player with whom the West team players became friendly. Although only 18-years-old, Cal McLish was already in the big leagues pitching with the Dodgers. He had signed with the Dodgers fresh out of high school and since many players were in the military, he went straight to the Dodgers. Two weeks after the Esquire’s Game, McLish was in the Army.

Picetti went on to write that he, “almost missed the game on Monday. We were ready to leave the hotel for the Polo Grounds. I had forgotten some of my equipment and hurried back to my room to get it. I told the man in charge of our trip, but probably he didn’t hear me. When I got back downstairs, everybody was gone. I started out alone but didn’t know how to go in the subway. Instead of going to the Polo Grounds, I was going to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. I asked people about it and finally got turned around. I had to change trains four or five times, and I just got there before game time.”

Within a week, Picetti signed with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League and played parts of three seasons of minor league ball. In 1944 and the first part of 1945, he played for his hero, Dolph Camilli, who had been a star first baseman in the National League for the 11 years and was the MVP with the Dodgers in 1941. In 1944, with a squad laded with left handed first baseman, on August 22, Vic was given the position and the others were relegated to the outfield or dugout. In 1945, Vic put together a 13 game hitting streak early in the season batted .282 for the Oaks. On April 26, readers of The Sporting News got a glimpse of Picetti in a feature article. The 17-year-old was still in high school at the time, and war or no war, he was considered the most promising young player on the West Coast. During his hitting streak he batted .407 (22-for 54). Although he slugged 46 extra-base hits in 1945, only one was a home run. It came, along with three singles, in a May 15 win over Sacramento. That homer would be his only PCL four-bagger. Oakland finished at 90-93 in 1945 and looking to rebuild brought in manager Casey Stengel for the 1946 season.

After starting 1946 with Oakland, and playing seven games for new manager Stengel, Picetti was reassigned to the Spokane Indians in the Class-B Western International League. He was still young, and Oakland was looking to move veteran Les Scarcella from the outfield to make room for Wally Westlake, who was returning from service during World War II. Scarcella (.332) and Westlake (.315) would be the Oaks’ leading batters as they finished second with a 111-72 record.

I am the shadow sinister called Fate … I am the Master Umpire, and I call the plays the way I see them. I have raised my arm, and nine grand boys are out.- Spokane Indians memorial program, 1946

Vic was playing well for Spokane and batting .285 after 57 games. The team’s bus was traveling from Spokane and was four miles west of the summit of Snoqualmie Pass Highway in the Cascade Mountains 50 miles east of Seattle on June 24 at about 7:30 PM en route to the team’s next game in Bremerton, Washington. A drizzly rain was falling, the driver lost control of the vehicle and it went over the side of a mountain, falling 300 feet on the muddy terrain and bursting into flames. Investigations revealed that the bus driver had swerved to elude an oncoming car that was traveling in the wrong lane. Manager Mel Cole, whose charred ruins were taken from the bus, and eight of his players perished. Six men were dead at the scene, one died en route to the hospital, and two players perished at area hospitals, George Lyden died 16 hours after the crash, and Chris Hartje died Wednesday evening.

Sixty years after the crash, writer Howie Stalwick recounted the details of the accident.
The bus began skidding, slamming into the guardrail, demolishing concrete posts holding cables in place. Suddenly, the bus hurtled into hell, flipping again and again and again down the mountain. The men inside were thrown violently against the walls, floor and roof. Some were sent crashing through windows as the bus burst into flames.
An eternity later, there was silence, except for the crackling of flames and the groans of dazed, injured men trying to escape the wreckage. Six players lay motionless; they were dead. Another died en route to the hospital. Another died the following day. Still another died the day after that.

Vic Picetti was carried from the scene to a waiting ambulance, and succumbed on the way to the hospital and was declared dead on arrival at King County Hospital. His funeral was held on Saturday June 29. He was only 18-years-old. Oaks manager Casey Stengel said, “Picetti was a very good player and there is no doubt he had major league possibilities. He hit .300 (his average with Spokane was .306 as late as June 16), had a good pair of legs and was a good runner.”

Before the 1946 Esquire’s Game in Chicago, the crowd stood in silence to honor the young man.

The two players who were runners-up in the balloting in San Francisco were Joe Kaney and Jim Zavitka. Kaney signed with the Boston Red Sox and played six minor league seasons, during which he batted .267. The highest plateau he reached was Triple-A Seattle for a brief 17-game stay in 1947. Zavitka, a pitcher, seemed destined for the big time. In his first pro season, 1947, he was 17-6 at Ogden in the Class-C Pioneer League, but he missed the next two seasons and was not the same when he returned. He was finished after the 1952 season at age 26.

As far as the newspapers that sent representatives to the game were concerned, their local players could do little wrong. The Charlotte Observer sent pitcher Mason Leeper to the game along with reporter Jake Wade. Leeper, who had injured his pitching arm prior to the game, entered the game in the ninth inning and preserved the shutout, allowing one hit. The Gastonia Gazette headline read, “Lefty Leeper Pitches Final Rack in All-Star Tilt.” Wade gave a full account of Leeper’s time in the spotlight. Picetti led off and singled to left field as his ground ball was just beyond the reach of Boston shortstop Leo Reming. Lindsey fouled out to the catcher on a 3-2 count. Perchak fielded a ground ball but threw wildly to second base, and there were runners on first and second with only one out. Wade then went on to tell his readers that “Mason (Leeper) working coolly, showing the effects of his ailing whipper and without the great stuff he showed in his battles back home proceeded to whiff Udo Jansen, who had singled off (New York’s George) Worgul on his previous trip to the plate. Rich Ashburn then grounded to Reming who tossed to (second baseman) John Moskal for a force out of Wohlers ending the game.” Leeper, who was one month shy of his 16th birthday when he pitched in the Esquire’s game, signed with the Atlanta Crackers and pitched in the minor leagues for five seasons, posting a15-24 record.

As Oscar Fraley commented, “The true highlight is that these youngsters will be learning a never-to-be-forgotten lesson in sportsmanship and the American way of life. It didn’t matter to these kids whether they were rich or poor, or whether their parents were Republicans or Democrats. All that counted was that they were able to play good baseball.”

Chapter Three

Esquire’s All-American Boys Baseball Game: 1945

He Came from Egypt

Once again boys came to New York from all over the country and were treated to a wonderful experience that included a boat trip up the Hudson River, a meeting with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and lunch at Toots Shor’s Restaurant. Thirty-two players were representing their home towns, and each was accompanied by a local writer so to assure that the folks back home wouldn’t miss a thing. The game was broadcast nationally with Red Barber and Harry Wismer at the microphones.

Proceeds went to the Living War Memorials Commission that built community recreation facilities with the funds. Proceeds also went to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

On Tuesday August 21, the players met their managers and had their first workouts. The West Squad worked out at Ebbets Field and the East Squad worked out at the Polo Grounds. The following Monday, the teams switched venues.

In addition to seeing major league ball games, the boys met with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and wen to see “Hats off to Ice.”

The game at the Polo Grounds produced Curt Simmons who would go on to star with the Phillies and Cardinals. Managers were Babe Ruth (East) and Ty Cobb (West). Ruth was assisted by Carl Hubbell and Gordy Maquire of the New York Giants. Cobb was assisted by Chuck Dressen and Red Corriden of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

At the time, Simmons had just completed his sophomore year of high school and was 16-years-old. That summer, he pitched the Coplay American Legion team to the first of two consecutive Pennsylvania state junior crowns. The next season, he would make it three in a row. His mound prowess earned him selection to an American Legion all-star game at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, where he struck out seven of the nine hitters he faced in three innings. From there it was on to the game in New York. Simmons emulated Ruth in the game. He pitched the first four innings, allowing one earned run. He switched to the outfield for the final five innings. In the ninth inning, with one on, he hit the longest drive of the game. His triple drove in a run, and he scored the tying run during a three-run rally as his East team came from behind to win 5-4. Simmons was chosen the game’s MVP. In the picture below, that is Curt will his arms extended third from the right.

Simmons shared hero status in the game with John Neal of Bloomington, Illinois. In 1945, the selection process for the Chicago representative to the Esquire’s game took the form of an All-Star game at Comiskey Park on July 28, 1945. In the event, sponsored by the Peoria Journal, the CYO All-Stars defeated the American Legion All-Stars 1-0 in seven innings. Neal, Bloomington High School’s sophomore pitching star, started the game in the outfield, getting two hits and then pitched a hitless last inning in the seven inning contest. He was selected to go to New York. In a practice before the game, Neal was turning heads as he deposited balls into the outfield stands. The hitting display impressed team manager Babe Ruth so much that the Bambino elected Neal to play the outfield in the game. In the game itself, Neal, batting in the cleanup spot did not disappoint. He went 2-for-4 with a single and a double and was right in the middle of a rally that resulted in his team scoring its first two runs in the fourth inning. Neal after attending college at the University of Illinois and serving in the Marines, signed with the Orioles in 1954, but his professional career consisted of one appearance in Class-C.

Another hero in the game was winning pitcher Bill Glane who pitched the last two innings, striking out five batters. Glane (to Ruth’s right in the picture) first played with Spokane in 1946,joining the squad after the devastating bus crash that decimated the squad. He then signed with the Dodgers and was 60-62 in nine minor league seasons. The highest level that he reached was Class-AAA.

The first player selected for the game was Burt Stone from Miami. He was elated when informed by Jimmy Burns of the Miami Herald. The young second baseman had batted .400 (24-for-60) in the preceding season at high school, stealing 17 bases. During his time in New York, he let the folks back home know of his adventure, writing a daily column in the Miami Herald. One day, he communicated that, “We took in an ice show Wednesday night. It was really something to see. I’d never seen an ice show before and neither had the other fellows. The settings and lights and costumes were beautiful, and the girls weren’t bad either.”

In the game, he drove in Simmons with the tying run with a single, and later came around to score the winning run. Stone’s family was in attendance at the game, including his brother Corporal Larry Stone, who had flown in from Cairo, Egypt. The irony here is that game MVP Simmons had come to the game from Egypt, Pennsylvania. Burt Stone signed with the Boston Braves and spent six seasons in their organization, getting as high as Class AAA.

Six players in addition to Simmons made it to the major leagues. They included Davey Williams, Bob DiPietro, Jack Dittmer, Vern Morgan, Herbert Plews, and John Thomas.
DiPietro was days shy of his 18th birthday when the game was played in New York. He had just graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School and was chosen to represent San Francisco after hitting triple and three singles in the East Bay-West Bay All Star Game. He scored after his triple in the top of the 12th inning to put his West Bay team into the lead, 5-4, but the East Bay squad tied the score in the bottom of the inning. The West team did win the game 6-5 in 15 innings.

After graduating high school, with the draft approaching, DiPetro had met with a Navy recruiter. However, he elected to go to the game in New York. The military would wait until he returned from New York. And then, he enlisted in the Army.

In New York, DiPietro was selected as captain of the West team, and got a hit off Simmons in the game. His trip to New York was followed closely by the San Francisco Chronicle. Before departing for New York, he was asked if he was excited. “Excited? Boy, oh boy, I’ll say I’m excited! I never dreamed that anything so wonderful could happen to me. I can’t realize yet that it’s all true.” When in New York, his mom Reisa carefully went through each and every copy of each and every newspaper, clipping away and putting each article about Bob into a carefully maintained scrapbook. She had no shortage of help from family and friends, to whom Bob was known as “Deef.” He got the unusual nickname early on. His schoolmates had difficulty pronouncing DiPietro, called him “D-P,” and D-P became Deef.

As a youngster, DiPietro had been a fan of the New York Yankees and before departing for New York said, “My favorite team has been the Yankees. They, to me, have always seemed to be a legend of the best that baseball can offer. I’d be the happiest fellow in the world if I could wear a Yankee uniform.”

DiPietro and his teammates convened for their first practice at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field with no less than five scouts in attendance. A special thrill for DiPetro was playing for Ty Cobb, who was his favorite player. In that first practice, Cobb took some extra time to help DiPietro with his bunting.

He remembered a scene during a pre-game practice at the Polo Grounds on August 27, when Babe Ruth was frustrated with one of his players in the batting cage. “He (Ruth) grabbed the bat from one of the players and told the kid, ‘Get the hell out of the batting cage. You aren’t worth shit as a hitter.’ He said, ‘Carl (Hubbell), groove a few of ‘em here. Let me show them how to hit.’ Carl Hubbell was pitching! I look back. Cobb, Ruth, Hubbell, and what did I get? Zip (autographs)! Ruth hit six balls into the stands. It was the damnedest exhibition I’d seen. And he was in a sweat suit. But he had that great swing. Of course, the Polo Grounds, it was very short down both lines, but he hit a good drive to center field. He put on a show; it was great.”

After getting out of the service DiPietro signed with the Boston Red Sox and played 13 seasons in the minor leagues, batting .282. He only had a cup of coffee in the majors, playing in four games with the Red Sox in 1951.

Davey Williams represented Dallas in the game in New York, and his powerful bat earned him a start in the game. In the first inning, he walked and injured his hand, losing a nail when he was spiked trying to break up a double play, and stayed in the game through eight innings, getting a hit off Simmons. Ty Cobb was impressed by Williams’ toughness and later wrote to him to say as much. After the Esquire’s game, he signed with scout Claude Dietrich of the Atlanta Crackers, but before playing an inning of professional ball, spent 14 months fulfilling his military obligation.

He first played with Waycross, Atlanta’s affiliate in the Class-D Georgia-Florida League in 1947, batting .290 with a league leading 147 runs scored. He led the league with 34 doubles and, in all, had 52 extra base hits. The following season found him at Pensacola in the Class-B Southeastern League where he once again led his league in scoring (119) and once again had 52 extra base hits. He batted .308 and was named to his league’s All-Star team. By 1949, he was with Atlanta but was, by then, the property of the New York Giants. He spent the bulk of the 1949 season with Atlanta, batting .290 and was named the Class-AA Southern Association’s Rookie-of-the-Year.

He played in 13 games for the Giants at the end of the 1949 season and spent 1950 at Minneapolis in the Class-AAA American Association. In July of 1951, after beginning the season with Minneapolis, he rejoined the Giants and played 50 games for the National league champions. He went on to play six seasons at second base for the New York Giants and was in two World Series. In 1953, his best season, he batted .297 as was named to the National League All-Star team.

Herb Plews came all the way from Helena, Montana to play in the game. He was not the initial choice to represent Wyoming and Montana in the game. The initial choice, Dick Mitchell of Miles City, Montana, signed with the Yankees and was in their system for six seasons, compiling 53-55 record, but the highest he got was a two game stint at Triple-A Newark in 1949. Plews, who was backing up Williams at second base in the Esquire’s game, went into the game as a defensive replacement and did not get to come to the plate. Although his high school did not have a baseball team, Plews played American Legion ball and on the basis of his play in Legion ball, was selected to go to New York. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Illinois, where he led the Big Nine Conference, as it was known from 1946 through 1948, in batting with a .404 average in 1948. His first minor league experience came in the 1950 when he was signed to a minor league contract by the Kansas City Blues. The Blues, at the time, were affiliated with the New York Yankees. After serving in the service for two years during the Korean War, he returned to baseball and had his best minor league season at Denver in 1955, batting .302.
Prior to the 1956 season, he was traded by the Yankees to the Washington Senators and made it to the majors with Washington that season, playing in 91 games, batting .270. He played four seasons in the majors, mostly with Washington, and batted .262 in 346 games. After playing his final major league game for the Red Sox in July, 1959, he went back to the minor leagues and played through 1965, accumulating a total of 1,083 hits in the minor leagues.

Jack Dittmer hailed from Elkader, Iowa and had completed his junior year of high school when chosen for the Esquire’s game. Better known for his football skills as a youngster, the pass catcher commenced his senior year of high schoolboy scoring five touchdowns in the opening game. After attending the University of Iowa, where he was named to the second team All-Big Ten football squad in his senior year, he signed with the Boston Braves in 1950 and made it to the majors in 1952. He played in the majors for six seasons, batting .232. His best season was 1953 when he had a career high 134 hits, clubbed 23 doubles, and batted .266 for Milwaukee.

Vern Morgan was named to the Esquire’s squad among some controversy. It seems that he had signed a contract with the New York Giants in 1944, and his eligibility was questioned. When it was determined that he had never actually played professionally, the contract was torn up and he was allowed to represent Emporia, Virginia in the Esquire’s game. He signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1948 and finally made it to the majors in 1954. In parts of two seasons with the Cubs, he played in 31 games and batted .225. After his playing days, he managed in the minor leagues for eight seasons.

John “Bud” Thomas signed with the St. Louis Browns and made it to the major leagues for a brief stay towards the end of the 1951 season. In 14 games, he faired pretty well, batting .350 (7-for-20) with a home run and a pair of stolen bases. After the home he received the silent treatment from his teammates on the bench. Little did anyone know that he would be out of the majors the next season, sold off to Toronto of the International League. His last season in organized baseball was 1953, when he batted only .193 for San Antonio in the Class-AA Texas League. After his playing career, he became an educator in his home town of Sedalia, Missouri, starting as a student teacher and rising to the level of Assistant Superintendent of Schools, a position he held for 11 years. He died in 2015 at the age of 86.
Most of the players, of course, didn’t make it to the majors, but the competition to get to New York was just as challenging. George Fisher, a pitcher, represented Ogden, Utah. The Ogden Standard-Examiner was sending its first representative to the game and held an All-Star game on June 14 to determine its representative. 28 players from Utah and Idaho took to the field at John Affleck Park. Even Ogden, Dave Romney, took the event seriously. He practiced for ten days so as to be able to throw a strike with the first pitch. On the receiving end of the pitch was Mayor Earl Glade of Salt Lake City.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer sponsored an All-Star doubleheader on June 18 in Seattle, pitting the local King-Pierce County team against the Statewide all-stars. Although the locals won both games, it was a player from the Statewide team that made it through the gauntlet of promising youngsters to be selected for the trip east. Bob Goldstein, who had a single, double, and triple over the course of the two games , was initially signed by the Yankee organization in 1948 and batted .280 over the course of three minor league seasons, advancing as far as Class-B in 1950.

In 1945, Jim Crosset took over the reins of promoting the game for Esquire and was instrumental in moving the game to Chicago in 1946. What was to be the last Esquire game was held in from of 28,211 spectators at Wrigley Field in Chicago on August 10, 1946 and six of the 16 players on the East team eventually made it to the majors.

Chapter Four

Esquire’s All-American Boys Baseball Game: 1946

Cobb Meets Wagner in the Windy City

New Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler added his name to the growing list of supporters for the game when he commented:

“I am tremendously interested in amateur baseball and want to encourage allof those who sponsor ethical competition among the younger ballplayers. There is a marked upsurge in interest in junior baseball all over the country and I think this is a very healthy sign.”
Before getting to go to New York, the players had to survive the selection process in their local communities. In one case, that meant going up against players from three states. The Ogden Standard-Examiner sponsored a baseball school which served as a tryout vehicle for boys from Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. From a group of more than 200, 24 boys were selected to play in an All-Star game on July 3. Proceeds from the game were used to support the Shriners Crippled Children’s Hospital Fund and the managers were George “High Pockets” Kelly and Pat Patterson, both of whom were serving as area scouts for the Cincinnati Reds. Kelly, who played sixteen seasons in the majors, stared with the New York Giants in the 1920’s when, over a seven year period, he batted .306, led the league in homers once and in RBIs twice. He was subsequently elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1973. Patterson played briefly with the Giants in 1921 before going on to a career as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds.

The player selected, after the game in Ogden, to go to Chicago was none other than left hander Morris “Bud” Powers, a pitcher who probably went on to a great career, but it was most definitely not in baseball. Indeed, while with Powers in Chicago, writer Al Warden of the Ogen Standard-Examiner wrote that Powers “looks sweeter to the writer than a hundred-pound sack of sugar would look to a needy housewife.” He went on to become a successful executive with Fram Corporation.

Somehow, Kelly and the others involved in the selection process did not appreciate the talents of another pitcher, this one from, of all places, Meridian, Idaho. The kid from Idaho was one of nine Idaho players at the baseball school, and was one of three players from Idaho selected to start in the game. Vernon Law was the starting pitcher for Kelly’s Esquire team and struck out the first seven batters he faced. However, in the third inning, with one out he ran into some control trouble, walking three batters. He also allowed a single and although each of the outs he recorded was via the strikeout route, he gave up one run. Powers replace Law on the mound and pitched three shutout innings, striking out seven, and edging out Law and shortstop Andy “Buzz” Harrington for the trip to Chicago. Harrington, whose father had played in one game with the Detroit Tigers in 1925, did not play professionally. On the other hand, Law signed in 1948 with the Pirates and went on to win 162 games, including 20 (18 complete games) when he won the Cy Young Award in 1960, was named to his only All-Star team and won two games in the World Series for the Pirates.

In Denver the unanimous choice was Fred Steinmark. The shortstop was portrayed in a pre-game article by Al Warden of the Ogden Standard-Examiner as having a strong arm and as having led his high school league in RBIs. Less than a week before the game, he was replaced by infielder Paul Ciberay. Indeed, the replacement was so close to game time that Steinmark’s picture, along with a brief bio was included in the official program.
Steinmark signed with the Cleveland Indians and played three seasons in the minor leagues.

A generation later, another Fred Steinmark would be grabbing the headlines, but in a football uniform. Fred and Gloria’s son, was an outstanding football player at the University of Texas. His story went from triumph to tragedy seemingly overnight. The smallish defensive back was part of a great come from behind effort as the Longhorns defeated Arkansas on December 6, 1969 for the National Championship. Six days later, after being diagnosed with cancer, his leg was amputated. His spirits remained good, but the cancer returned and he died on June 6, 1971.

Ken Fremming represented Buffalo, New York. The pitcher signed with the Detroit Tigers and spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, getting as high as Triple-A Toledo.
In Seattle, against the backdrop of the Parade of Progress exhibition, a double header was played on July 1 to determine Seattle’s representative to the Esquire’s Game in Chicago as well as the first Hearst Classic in New York. Seattle had been conducting All-Star games for several years and, in 1944 and 1945 sent players to the Esquire’s games. Jim Presley was the representative in 1944 and Bob Goldstein was the representative in 1945. Neither made it to the majors. In 1946, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer sponsored the All-Star Game on July 1. In attendance as special guest star was Tris Speaker, who flew in from Cleveland and was looking forward to getting in some fishing during his first trip to the Northwest. The managers were Casey Stengel of the Oakland Oaks and Jo-Jo White, who had succeeded Bill Skiff as manager of the Seattle Rainiers on June 12.

The local King-Pierce County team, 23 strong, was announced on June 7 and squared off against a team comprised of 25 all-stars from other parts of the state and Northern Idaho. And everyone got their names in the newspaper even if the spelling was not always accurate. For example, the State team’s first baseman was either Howley, or Rowel, or Rowley – so it was written on June 24 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. By game time the players arrived at the Olympic Hotel, it was determined that his name was actually John Rowely. As always in these type of events, there are last minute changes. On the eve of the vent, it was announced that catch Johnny Brogan, a former mayor at Boys’ Town in Nebraska, would be representing Northern Idaho in the game.

The King-Pierce County team won both games 11-1 and 8-7. The two top players from the game were sent east. Russ Rosburg went to the Hearst Classic and Tony Brodie went to the Esquire’s Game in Chicago. The alternate was Gerald Kimmerle of Lake Washington, who had batted .455 in his final high school season. All three players accompanied the Seattle Rainers on a road trip to Portland and Los Angeles before Rosburg and Brodie headed east.
Rosburg signed with the St. Louis Browns and played nine seasons of minor league baseball. He batted .306 over his nine years with 155 home runs. His highest level of play was in the Pacific Coast League, where he got into 37 games over a three year period, batting .275. He retired after the 1957 season. Brodie signed with the New York Giants and spent four seasons in the low minors, never getting beyond Class-C. He retired after the 1953 season. Kimmerle did not sign on with a big league organization.

Jerry Ahrens was a double threat for the West squad. He was from St. Louis and was accompanied to the game by Harold Tuthill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jerry, who had two no-hitters was so prodigious a hitter that manager Ty Cobb batted him fourth in the lineup and sent him to the outfield once his pitching chores were complete. He pitched the first three innings, striking out two, and was the winning pitcher. As a batter, he had one hit in three appearances and drove in two runs. He was signed by the Tigers and pitched two minor league seasons, posting a combined mark of 21-8 while batting .223. However, he would not get past Class-A.

Grabbing the sports headlines in the months leading up to the event in Chicago were the June 19 heavyweight title match between Joe Louis and Billy Conn, as Louis came back after his long layoff from serving in the military during World War II and scored, an eighth round knockout. .

In the days prior to the 1946 game in Chicago, the boys got to see two games between the White Sox and the Indians, attended a performance of the Ringling Brothers Circus, took a two and one-half hour boat ride on Lake Michigan, and attended a practice of the College All-Stars football team. Present for the pre-game festivities were Chandler, along with former heavyweight boxing champions Gene Tunney and Max Baer.

Ty Cobb returned to manage the West squad and applauded the game. “When any event makes it possible for boys from all sections of the country to meet on common ground, and where all have a common interest, it is a big step forward in making this country a better place for our coming generation to live in.”

Honus Wagner managed the East Squad. His coaches were Luke Appling and Mike Tresh. Wagner said, “Working with these boys will take me back to my kid days in Crnegie, Pennsylvania. We’ll did in and learn a lot of baseball while we are together. I can’t say that we’ll win, but I will say the West will get all the competition they are looking for when the umpire calls, ‘Play Ball!’”

Wagner was posed with an unusual challenge as five of his players were first basemen and he had to do some juggling to field all nine positions. One of those first baseman was Don Ivol from Pittsburgh, who Wagner moved to the pitcher’s mound. Ivol had been selected after an All-Star game in Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field on Saturday, July 13. The game played under the auspices of a group known as the Dapper Dans, was played after the Pirates-Phillies game on that date. Ivol did not play professionally. Wagner also had nine left hand batters on his roster.

The first player selected for the game was another first baseman, Miami’s Bob Hall. He was selected by and accompanied to the game by the Miami Herald’s .Hall played left field in New York and was signed by the Yankees. He spent three years in their system but didn’t get beyond Class-D.

Cobb had his woes as well as two of his pitchers elected to stay home and participate in a local American Legion tourney. Ernie Funk from Little Rock would go on to sign with the Detroit Tigers and made it as far as Class-AAA. Funk was replaced by right fielder Louis Lasley. Lasley played three seasons in the lower minors but was never able to excite any interest by major league teams. At the last minute, Frank Womack of Houston withdrew to pitch closer to home and was replaced by shortstop William “Sonny” Bollman. Bollman signed with the Pirates and lasted three seasons in their minor league system, batting .251 and getting as high as Class-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League.

Richard Vander Clute was the starting pitcher for the East squad and pitched 1 2/3 innings. He was accompanied to Chicago by Mike Lee of the Long Island Press. He pitched college ball at Colgate and Wake Forest. He was assigned by the Yankees to their Norfolk farm team in the Class-A Piedmont League for the 1950 season, but showed up with a sore arm and never pitched an inning of organized baseball. He went on to join the Marines in 1951, and was injured during the Korean conflict. He rose to the rank of Captain and in civial life became a marketing manager with Unisys Corporation.

Cobb’s squad exploded for five runs in the sixth inning and coasted to a 10-4 victory. Walter Pocekay was chosen MVP after going 4-for-5 in the contest. Pocekay, from Richmond, California, had been sent east by the San Francisco Chronicle. He played in parts of nine minor league seasons, mostly on the West Coast, and batted .308, but he never made it to the majors.

The group that did make it to the majors included Hobie Landrith, Chuck Stobbs, Harry Agganis, Pete Whisenant, John Powers, and Harold “Tookie” Gilbert.

Harry Agganis was the top ranking player in the Eastern Massachusetts School League, and was sent to the game by Ernie Dalton of the Boston Globe. Although only a sophomore at the time, he had been awarded the Fred Ostergren Memorial Trophy as the outstanding New England athlete and student of 1946. The following year, he would be in the Hearst Classic in New York.

Tookie Gilbert, representing New Orleans, was sent to the game by Fred Digby of the New Orleans Item. He was seen as the outstanding prospect of those playing in the game, having never hit below .600 in his school and sandlot play, and had batted .415 in American Legion play during the summer of 1945. He had been initially selected for the 1945 game, but did not go to New York. Gilbert’s father, Larry had played in the majors with the Braves for two seasons, and was part of the 1914 Miracle Braves squad. Larry finished his active career playing with the New Orleans Pelicans for nine seasons, and served as the team’s manager from 1923 through 1938. Scout Bruce Connatser who had played minor league ball in New Orleans in 1931, remembered that Gilbert “was just a child” back then. Young Tookie was a fixture at the ballpark. Connatser remembered that “Harold grew right up in baseball, and his dad had him out to the New Orleans home games before he knew how to walk.” At the time of the Esquire’s game in 1946, Larry was managing at Nashville and took the day off to travel to Chicago and watch his son play.
Tookie signed with the New York Giants and made his way to Nashville in 1949, batting .334 with 33 homers in 154 games. Manager Leo Durocher of the Giants thought he was ready for the big leagues and, after an exceptional spring training, Gilbert made his debut on May 8, 1950 with the Giants, the heir to the first place job open since Johnny Mize had been traded to the Yankees late in the 1949 season. Gilbert played 111 games in 1950, but his .220 batting average showed that he had been called up too soon. He was sent back to the minors, returning to the Giants for an unproductive 70 games, batting only .189, in 1953. That was the end of his major league career.

Pete Whisenant of Paw Creek, North Carolina was selected after starring in an All-Star game in Charlotte, North Carolina between teams from North and South Carolina. He was selected for Chicago game by a seven man panel of judges headed by the coaches for the two teams, four writers including Wilton Garrison of the Charlotte Observer, and Claude Dietrick, head scout of the Atlanta Crackers. He was the best performer for the East Squad in the 1946 Esquire’s game, getting three hits in five at-bats. He made it to the major leagues with the Boston Braves in 1952 and played parts of eight seasons for six different teams. After his playing days, he continued in baseball and managed for two seasons in the Oakland A’s organization. He was named the Class –A California League’s Manager of the year in 1982 when he led Modesto to a 94-46 record.

Chuck Stobbs was a hard hitting, hard throwing first baseman and pitcher from Norfolk, Virginia, starring at Granby High School. He was named Virginia Player of the year in high school in 1946, was named to the All-State Basketball team, and led his high school football team to three consecutive undefeated seasons. He had starred in the Eastern Virginia-Western Virginia All Star game, pitching his squad to a 7-1 win and earning a trip to the game in Chicago.

He signed with George “Specs” Toporcer of the Boston Red Sox and was with the Red Sox organization through 1951, posting a 33-23 record in Boston. Later on, he pitched with the Washington Senators for nine years. He is perhaps best known for one pitch. On April 17, 1953 at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC, Mickey Mantle sent one of Stobbs’ offerings far and long. The tape-measure shot was said to have gone 565 feet before coming to a rest. Stobbs went on to win 107 games in the majors (with 130 losses), but that one pitch will never be forgotten.

Hobie Landrith of Detroit was selected for the game by Lyall Smith of the Detroit Free Press. In 1948, he played in the Hearst game.

John Powers hailed from Birmingham, Alabama. He was selected for the game after starring in the Alabama All-Star game sponsored by the Birmingham News. In that game, his three doubles impressed the judges, one of whom was Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler. He had 304 homers as a professional, all but six in the minor leagues. He slammed 298 homers in 13 seasons. Twice, with Class B Waco in 1950 and with Class AA New Orleans, he banged out 39 dingers. He played in parts of six seasons in the major leagues but only batted .195 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 215 at-bats.

Esquire had hoped to take the game to a different city each year, but these hopes were dashed when the magazine, in December, 1946, informed the participating newspapers from coast to coast that there would be no further games after 1946.

Two other All-Star games bringing in kids from around the United States, were played in 1946. Brooklyn Against the World at Ebbets Field and the Hearst Sandlot Classic at the Polo Grounds pitted local New York talent against the out-of-towners. The Brooklyn games continued in various formats through 1950, but the Hearst Classic, which continued through 1965 was the most enduring of the youth All-Star games.

Chapter 5

Brooklyn Against the World – 1946

A Pitcher Plays in Right Field

In New York City, not only did the Journal-American host a classic, but the Brooklyn Eagle also got into the act with its “Brooklyn Against the World” competition at Ebbets Field. The main forces behind the game were Branch Rickey of the Dodgers and Lou Niss, the Sports Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle.

Niss was always on the stump selling tickets for the event.  At a Kiwanis Club meeting on July 23, he was an invited guest and said that he was there “not to speak but to sell tickets.” The ever pragmatic Rickey, after speaking of the importance of sandlot ball to the community said, “From a selfish point of view, it is to the advantage of the major leagues to do everything in their power to stimulate increased interest in sandlot games. It is to such teams that we look for the star players of tomorrow.”

Each day, the game was advertised in the Eagle and, as players were announced for the “World” team the Brooklyn faithful received as much information about the intruders as the Eagle sportswriters could find.

Players from around the country, Canada and Hawaii were brought to Brooklyn as part of the World team for a three game series that was played August 7, 8, and 9 at Ebbets Field. One player for the 1946 “World” team hailed from Los Angeles, and he was sent east by the Los Angeles Times. Vic Marasco had the time of his life. “Those people from the Brooklyn Eagle and the Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t spare the horses when it came to taking us around.” He summed it all up by saying “I think I learned more on this trip than all the time I was in Fremont High and I just want to congratulate the kid who makes it next year. He’s in for the biggest treat of his life.” The “fence-denting” Marasco had family in Brooklyn and thus had a built in cheering section for the series. He was signed with the Dodgers, spent 10 seasons in the minor leagues and put up some pretty good numbers. In 1953, he batted .306 with 14 homers and 89 RBI at Fort Worth and in 1955, with Richmond in the International League, he batted .301 with 10 homers and 50 RBI. But Triple A was as far as he would get. He retired after the 1958 season.

Marasco came a long way, but 130 pound pitcher Henry Tominaga came an even longer distance – from Honolulu, complete with a shirt with “Hawaii – 49th State,” across his chest. Tominaga, who also played the outfield, came with credentials, having pitched a no-hitter earlier that year against Mid-Pacific Institute in his first outing of the season. In the final tryout game held in Hawaii, Tominaga, a graduate of McKinley High School, struck out 10 batters in nine innings to secure his passage to Brooklyn.

Tommy Holmes told his readers that, “Up in old New England, the Boston Post rose to Brooklyn’s challenged in a great big way. Led by Gerry Hearn, the forces of that paper’s sports pages conducted the first New England talent hunt in history which resulted in a great promotion of their own. Great fun and great competition resulted. Numerous fine young ballplayers were found and the best of them all will appear here as a member of the “world” team. The best wound up being Rod Clifford, who signed with his home town Boston Braves. Clifford spent five seasons in the lower minors but was never able to advance beyond Class-C.

As was the case with the Hearst game, the Brooklyn Against the World contests had top flight managers. In 1946, the Brooklyn team was managed by Leo Durocher, who brought along Chuck Dressen, Dixie Walker, and Johnny “Red” Corriden as coaches. The World team was managed by Hall-of-Famer George Sisler, who had as his coaches Andy High, Fresco Thompson, and Clyde Sukeforth. The “World” players were housed at the St. George Hotel.

The newspapers and organizations sending ballplayers included The San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, New Orleans States, Toronto Star, Buffalo Courier-Express, The Mobile Register, Montreal Newspapers, Charleston Gazette, Boston Post, Spokane Spokesman-Review, Indianapolis Star, Charlotte Observer, Wichita Eagle, Cleveland News, Philadelphia Record, St. Paul Amateur Baseball Association, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Chicago Daily News, Honolulu Star Telegram, and Bridgeport Post.

Jimmy Murphy and Tommy Holmes of the Brooklyn Eagle chronicled the games. Murphy was a champion of sandlot ball and the youth of Brooklyn could look towards seeing their names in his articles. The “World” players started arriving in town in late July and had their first practices on Thursday August 1. The players worked out at Ebbets Field and Erasmus High School, witnessed the finale of a three game series between the Dodger and Cardinals, and went to a show at the Radio City Music Hall, which included a viewing of the movie “Anna and the King of Siam” with Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne. On the way to and from the theater, coach Art Dede acted as tour guide, pointing out the sites along the way.

On August 2, they travelled up the Hudson River to West Point and then went on to Bear Mountain where they practiced and had dinner at the Bear Mountain Inn. The climax of their day was seeing boxers Willie Joyce and Kapilow lace up their gloves in a bout at Madison Square Garden. The following day, after practice and dinner, they saw the Dodgers play the Reds at Ebbets Field and took in “Ice-Time” at the Rockefeller Center Theater in Manhattan. And yes, there was more. The next day, they were back at Ebbets Field to see the Dodger and Reds and that was followed by a trip to Jones Beach to witness the water show. After that Henry Tominaga, Lenny Yochim, Roger Breard, Alex Romanchuk and Joe Della Monica appeared on the “We the People” broadcast on CBS radio.

There were still a couple of days left until the series was to begin, and the kids continued to practice hard, eat well, and be entertained as they had never been in their lives. Next up were “Oklahoma” at the St. James Theater, and a trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
After the performance of “Oklahoma at the St. James Theater, the boys went backstage to visit members of the cast. Beatrice Lynn, who hailed from Flatbush, posed with Chris Kitsos and Joe Torpey of the Brooklyn squad.

There was more on the schedule.  On August 6, the boys were off to Coney Island and its famous steeplechase, dinner at Bossert’s Marine Roof with its majestic view of the New York skyline, and a trip to the Polo Grounds to see the Dodgers face off against the Giants. The next morning, they were up early for deep-sea fishing across the Long Island Sound at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

During the series itself, there was even more sightseeing scheduled. From the Brooklyn Museum and nearby Botanical Gardens at the northeast end of Prospect Park to the zoo in the park, the kids saw all that Brooklyn had to offer, including a trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard on August 8, where they toured the U. S. S. Kearsage.

Chosen to umpire the game was the Dean of all Umpires, Bill Klem. who worked the series at first base. Klem was no longer an active umpire, and he felt that the plate required the services of an active umpire. Butch Henline was chosen for the task. His reasoning was that, “It will be a great series for the boys, and I want to make certain that the game is not spoiled by incompetent officiating. That’s why Henline has been assigned for all three games.”

He sat down to chat with Tommy Holmes of the Brooklyn Eagle and mentioned his three top rules for umpires:

“Remember you are umpiring for BASEBALL ONLY and it must be done in a business-like manner in order to establish yourself. Be in stride on EVERY pitch. This enables you to have confidence and to be set to time and judge a play as well as be ahead of anything that may happen. It has been proven in a POSITIVE WAY that the BEST way to judge a ball or strike is from a crouched position BETWEEN the catcher and the batsmen, with a weave or up and down movement as the ball comes to the catcher.”

On the eve of the event, positive comments could be heard from entertainers and elected officials. Entertainer Jack Benny’s comments echoed the thoughts of many on the eve of the contest. “An ‘Atomic Gun Salute’ to the Brooklyn Eagle and the Brooklyn Baseball Club for this baseball idea ‘Brooklyn Against the World’. It is a most worthy project and certainly deserves the full support and enthusiasm of every American citizen. With the customary ‘Brooklyn’ Spirit behind it, this very commendable undertaking will be a great success. Good wishes and every success.”

The games would be broadcast on WHN Radio by the Dodger announcers Red Barber and Connie Desmond.

Tommy Holmes wrote in the Eagle on August 7, the date of the first scheduled game, that Mr. Rickey had, at first, proposed a North-South matchup. Lou Niss disapproved of that concept saying, “No good. The Civil War is over. Let’s make it Brooklyn Against the World.” Rickey said to Niss that “Your team will get its ears beaten off.” Niss replied that, “You underestimate our town. We can get together a club that can play anybody.” Coach Clyde Sukeforth added, “There isn’t a lad on the list of 20 who isn’t worth the attention of a big league scout. Some of them are cinches to make the majors and before very many years.” Holmes went on to introduce the starting Brooklyn nine to his readers. They didn’t all make it, of course, but on that day, they were heroes.15 of the Brooklyn players, including each of the starting nine, were signed by big league teams. Two of the young men on the Brooklyn roster made it two the majors, one all the way to Cooperstown.

The boys woke up to cloudy skies and rain on August 7, and the rain was such that the Dodgers afternoon game against the Giants at the Polo Grounds was rained out. As afternoon turned into evening the rains stopped. Before heading to Ebbets Field on August 7, the players dined in Sheepshead Bay and were joined by baseball’s Clown Prince, Al Schacht. At the ball yard, Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore threw out the first ball, and Brooklyn legend Gladys Gooding sung the National Anthem. Also in attendance was Hilda Chester, perhaps the most vociferous fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Hilda was hard to miss. She came to each game equipped with her cowbells and heckled the opposition with an unmatched fervor. The young “World” players were not spared.

Durocher chose Al McEvoy as his starting pitcher and marveled as the youngster was warming up. “They won’t do him any harm tonight.” In an aside to Dixie Walker he said, “Maybe we won’t need you for a pinch hitter after all.” Walker’s eyes were trained on the opposing pitcher, Lenny Yochim from New Orleans. He’d been “looking at that other fellow over there and he just busted loose with a sidearm pitch that I can easily live without.”

McEvoy, who starred at Brooklyn Prep, pitching three no-hitters during his time there, had a complete game victory for the Brooklyn team, striking out 13 and allowing only five hits and no earned runs. The score was 4-2, and the game was completed in 97 minutes. McEvoy went to Holy Cross, going 7-0 in his freshman year, before signing with the Yankees. He went 11-4 in two minor league seasons. At the end of the 1949 season he pitched very briefly at the Class AAA level, and went no further.

McEvoy had been selected during a tryout that was overseen by scout Art Dede and former major leaguer Herb Thormahlen. Thormahlen, who had started his career with the Yankees, was involved in a trade with the Red Sox that brought Waite Hoyt to the Yankees. Of the more than 1,000 players nominated, 100 were elected to try out, 20 at a time.  After the first series of tryouts, the number of candidates was cut to 35 and those 35 played in practice games in early July. On July 21, the team was announced and pictures of each of the final 20 players appeared in that day’s Brooklyn Eagle. Leading the practices that began on July 22 were Dede, Sukeforth, Thormahlen, and John Carey. Carey, a former minor league pitcher in the Dodger organization helped the team’s pitching corps. On July 30, prior to the Dodgers-Cardinals game at Ebbets Field, the Brooklyn squad worked out on the field in front of more than 31,000 fans.

Thormahlen was quite active with Brooklyn Against the World in 1946. He also conducted a baseball school in Bridgeport, Connecticut after which Frank Turcy was selected to represent the city in the games at Brooklyn. Turcy signed with the Giants and played six minor league seasons.

Yochim, who had the distinction of being the first player chosen to participate in the series, was almost as good as McEvoy in his Brooklyn Against the World appearance. In four and one third innings of work, he allowed four hits, only two of which left the infield, and struck out eight. The only runs scored off him were unearned. He was signed by the Pirates and made it to the majors for brief visits in 1951 and 1954, appearing in 12 games with a 1-2 record. In 10 minor league seasons, many of them spent with the Bucs Double A club in New Orleans, Yochim compiled a 109-68 record. After his playing days, he became a well-respected scout for the Pirates, and after retiring continued to network with his fellow scouts.

One of the unsung coaches working with the Brooklyn youngsters was Art Dede. Thirty years earlier, Dede had played with the Dodgers – for one game. On October 4, 1916, in the team’s second to last game of the season, he came in to catch, had one plate appearance, and was unable to reach base safely. He was 21-years-old at the time. He was a sandlotter, and that appearance was his only game in professional baseball. He returned to the sandlots and became a fixture in Brooklyn. In 1947, became a scout for the Dodgers. When the Dodgers moved away, Dede signed on with the Yankees and was with them through 1971.

In 1946, he was working with the young Brooklyn first baseman, Arnold Wallis. He taught him a play whereby the first baseman, with runners on first and second and none out, a definite bunt situation, would charge toward the third base line and toss the ball to third base for the force play. He worked the play in the first game of Brooklyn Against the World. Oddly enough, in his playing days “World” manager Sisler, the top first baseman of his day, had often used this play. That particular play would not really been seen in New York for another 40 years, and the player who performed it was not born until 1953.

As for Wallis, he signed on with the Dodgers and played five minor league seasons.  His best year was in 1949 when he batted .327 in 113 games at Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the Class-B Interstate League. The following season he moved up a notch to Class-A Pueblo, Colorado in the Western League, but was unable to sustain his excellence of the prior season. At age 22, his baseball days were over.

It was hoped that 20,000 people would file into Ebbets Field for the game, but the day’s rains cut the crowd to about half that figure. Brooklyn Against the World was not the only game in the borough that night. The semi-pro Bushwicks hosted the Kansas City Monarchs and none other than Satchel Paige before 7,100 onlookers at Dexter Park.

In the second game, Vernon Frantz of Wichita and Rickey Rowe of Fort Worth handled Brooklyn, as the World won 4-3 in front of 10,222 spectators. Leo Durocher’s second game pitcher was Artie Raynor of Rockville Center, Long Island. Raynor had played right field in the first game. Playing right field in the second game was Ed Ford of Astoria Queens and Aviation High School in Manhattan. Ford had played his sandlot ball with the 34th Avenue Boys Club in Astoria, Queens. Raynor pitched brilliantly, allowing no hits in four innings, but the pitchers that followed him to the mound did not enjoy as much success. Brooklyn did not fare much better at the plate, mustering only three hits in the game, all off Rowe.

Frantz, a minister’s son, ran into misfortune in top of the fifth inning when Brooklyn scored twice without the benefit of a hit. Angelo Palmieri replaced Raynor in the bottom of the inning and relinquished the lead. As in the top half of the inning, the pitcher was done in by errors.  In this case, the World loaded the bases without benefit of a hit. Chicago’s Art Sepke, pinch hitting for Frantz, ended the no-hitter with a single, chasing two of the runners home. An inning later the World went out in front within another unearned run, courtesy of two errors sandwiched around a stolen base by Marasco. Rowe, who had taken over the pitching in the sixth inning, was touched up for a pair of singles as Brooklyn tied the game in the seventh inning. The game was decided in the eighth inning when the World scored another unearned run, this time off pitcher Bob Cowherd, who was tagged with the loss.

Frantz was also an accomplished wrestler, won the Kansas State Championship in the 138 pound classification as a high school junior. He was chosen to represent Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and had earned his way onto the squad by virtue of his performance in the Kansas Ban Johnson League, where his record was 4-2. One of those defeats, ironically, was against Rickey Rowe, who was playing for Manhattan, Kansas at the time. In high school, Frantz had pitched his Wichita East High School team to the state championship, striking out 15 batters in the final game of the tournament against Topeka.

Frantz signed with the Dodgers and was in their organization from 1947 through 1951. In his best season, he went 14-9 at Class-C Santa Barbara in the California League. Rowe signed on with the Giants and was in their minor league system for three seasons, going 27-19. However, the Giants had no use for his talents after 1950 and he was out of baseball at age 22.

After Raynor and Frantz exited, their replacements were just as stingy, insofar as giving up hits was concerned. However, both teams were guilty of defensive lapses.  Brooklyn was charged with six errors, and the World squad committed eight miscues.

The series was tied at one game apiece.

In the finale, Brooklyn’s Bill Mackel, from the University of Pennsylvania, and Bob Kunze, who had overcome a childhood battle with infantile paralysis, shut down the World by 5-1to win the series for Brooklyn, defeating Dick Baptista of San Francisco. Mackel, who had gone 4-1 in his first year of college,.pitched the first six innings, striking out nine and yielding but two singles. The World’s only run was unearned and resulted from an error by third baseman Joe Della Monica, a teammate of Mackel’s at the University of  Pennsylvania.

Mackel signed with the Giants in 1949 and fashioned a 16-7 record for Bristol in the Class-D Appalachian League. In 1950 he was in the Cardinal organization, and at the end of the season pitched briefly at Columbus, Georgia in the Class-A South Atlantic League.  He would go no further and his dream was over at age 22. After college, Kunze made his way to upstate New York playing with unaffiliated minor league teams in Watertown and Kingston in 1950 and 1951. In 1952, he plied his trade for the unaffiliated Tarboro (NC) Tars in the Class-D Coastal Plain League, going 12-10. As no major league organization was interested in his services, he called it a career at the age of 23. Baptista did not play in organized baseball.

Della Monica had played his high school ball at St. John’s Prep. He played in the Esquire’s All- American Boys Baseball game in 1945 and was team captain for Babe Ruth’s east squad. He signed with the Boston Braves in 1947 and was in their organization for six seasons before entering the military in 1953. He batted .261 at Class-B Evansville in 1952, but the Braves released him when he returned for the service.  In his last season, 1955, Della Monica was in the White Sox organization, but his future would not be in baseball.

Chuck Dressen took over as manager for this game, as Durocher was in Philadelphia with the Dodgers. In all, Durocher and Dressen used six Brooklyn pitchers in the three games. Several signed on to contracts with big league teams, but none made it to the majors. However, pitcher Ed Ford, who played in only the second game and played in right field, was signed by Paul Kritchell of the Yankees. Along the line, he became known as “Whitey” Ford and had a Hall of Fame career with the Bronx Bombers.

A third player from that first Brooklyn Against the World Series made it to the majors for the briefest of stays. Chris Kitsos of Brooklyn’s James Madison High School had the distinction of playing in both the Hearst Sandlot Classic and the Brooklyn Against the World competition in 1946. In the first game of the series in Brooklyn, the switch hitter singled from each side of the plate and drove in the game’s final run for the winners. He signed with the Dodgers and spent five seasons in their minor league system.

It was far too long of a stay. When Kitsos was in the Dodgers system, he felt he was in Branch Rickey’s doghouse. After his outstanding performance in the Hearst game, he received offers. As he said, “After the game, the Boston Braves, Cleveland, New York Yankees and Giants, were offering me contracts. But I had signed like a fool with Brooklyn before that game, and when you sign a contract you are there for the life of your baseball career, unless you are bought or drafted by another club. My father and I went to branch Rickey. We asked him to give us my release because the contract that gave me was for about $2,000 and I was offered an awful lot of money from the other baseball clubs. But he wouldn’t release me and from that day I was in the doghouse: Mr. Rickey’s doghouse.”

Over five years, he made seven stops in the Dodgers organization, and then he got noticed. He batted .334 in 1951 with Asheville in the Tri-State League, and his league-leading 137 walks game him an on-base percentage of .479. He also led his league in runs scored (134), doubles (43), and stolen bases (30). In the final game of the post season playoffs against Rock Hill, he homered from the right side of the plate in the first inning and from the left side of the plate in the second inning. Nest stop – Brooklyn? Note quite.

In those days, the doghouse notwithstanding, the Dodgers infield was populated by fellows named Robinson and Reese and their minor league system had an abundance of talent. Kitsos was expendable and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs after the 1951 season. The Cubs called the shortstop up in 1954, and on April 21, he was inserted as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning after a struggling Ernie Banks had been pulled for a pinch hitter. He handled two ground balls flawlessly, returned to the dugout, and never re-emerged. His major league career was over.

The Cubs released Kitsos in 1955 and he wound up back in the Dodgers organization.  He went on to play in the minor leagues through 1959, appearing in 1,618 games.  In 1955, playing with Mobile, he led the Southern Association in walks with 118. At Mobile, he was reunited with Jim Baxes, against whom he played in the 1946 Hearst Game. Baxes would comment that “he (Kitsos) was a helluva ballplayer. He didn’t get a chance. We had a good time playing ball together. Chris also has a special voice. He sings like a bird.”

After his baseball career was over, he settled in Mobile, Alabama, where he worked for the Gas Company. He also served as a youth baseball coach and worked with the Mobile Parks and Recreation Department.

The out-of-towners got more than their share of ink. Chicago’s Art Sepke, who was chosen to go to the game by Rogers Hornsby, was a man of many positions and talents. He batted .405 in his senior year of high school and hurled his team to five wins as well. At the end of the season, when his squad was depleted by injury, he stepped behind the plate for a couple of games. Sepke signed with the Yankees and was with Fond du Lac in the Class D Wisconsin State League in 1947, batting .394 in the early going before he missed most of the season with a sore arm. The following two seasons were spent with Pauls Valley in the Class-D Sooner State League, where the Yankees hoped the warmer weather would improve his performance.  In 1948, he got off to a good start and was batting .329 through his first 26 games. However, he slumped thereafter, and batted only .246 for the season. Although his dream of a big league career ended after a poorer performance in 1949, he continued on in baseball and was a fixture in semi-pro ball in the Chicago area for many years.  He also served as an area scout for the Kansas City Royals.

Each city had its own selection process and Spokane, Washington had an All-Star Game featuring the best 30 players from the area on July 10.  A committee of seven selected the representative.  Players representing Washington, Montana, and Idaho were observed by the committee headed by long time Dodger scout Howie Haak. In a high scoring affair, the West team defeated the east team 12-11. Selected to go east was third baseman Lou Damman who went 3-for-4 with a sensational catch grabbing a ball between shortstop and third base. His east teammates included Herb Plews who had played in the Esquire’s Game in 1945 and Jim Presley, who had played in the Esquire’s game in 1944. Finishing second in the balloting was infielder Stan Roseboro of Walla Walla who had stolen home to score the decisive run in the final inning. Roseboro signed with the Phillies in 1951 and spent eight seasons in the minors before calling it a career at age 30 after the 1958 season.  He made it as far as Triple-A.

Dammam was accompanied to Brooklyn by writer Denny Spellecy of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. He was under the weather for a couple of days during his time in Brooklyn, but took in the sights. After the final Brooklyn Against the World contest, Damman and Spellecy took in a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium and viewed the games from the press box. That evening they went to the show at the Loews State Theater and watched the Nicholas Brothers perform. On the train ride back to Spokane, the pair stopped off long enough in Chicago to see a game at Wrigley Field.

Damman signed with the Dodgers and played in their system from 1947 to 1949.  He moved onto the Red Sox system 1950 season after batting .303 with 21 homers for Santa Barbara in the Class-C California League in 1949. After spending the 1951 and 1952 seasons in the military, he played at Class-AAA Louisville in the American Association in 1953 and 1954, but would go no further.

From the Twin Cities came the St. Paul Amateur Baseball Federation’s representative, Alex Romanchuk who had completed his first year at St. Thomas College, where he went 5-0. He excelled during a doubleheader between the Minneapolis All-Stars and the St. Paul All-Stars. The pitcher-third baseman played at the hot corner in the first game and pitched the nightcap, winning 9-2. In his five years of playing amateur ball in the Twin Cities, Romanchuk, who graduated from Mechanics Arts high School, had gone 60-18. Among the judges at the game was Brooklyn Dodger scout Andy High, one of the coaches for the “World” team during the series in August.

Romanchuk deserved a better fate in Brooklyn Against the World.  In the first game, he came on to relieve Lenny Yochim in the fifth inning and during his time on the mound, a 2-1 lead became a 4-2 deficit due in large part to an error by his second baseman that led to three unearned runs. After the games, Romanchuk received an offer to sign with the Dodgers, but his Russian-born mother wanted her sons to be engineers. Professional baseball was not an option, and he went on to complete his studies at the University of Minnesota. Although Romanchuk did not play organized ball, he was sought after by amateur teams in Minnesota and was a fixture in the Independent North Star League. He was elected into the Minnesota Hall of Fame for Town Amateur Baseball.

On August 4, 1946, while in New York, Romanchuk and some of his teammates appeared on a radio program called “We the People,” and a group of players dined at Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant in Manhattan.

Scouts were dispatched from Brooklyn to oversee tryouts to determine the representative of West Virginia’s Charleton Gazette. The young man chosen was Howard Beverly.  Beverly was skilled at many positions. Normally he split his time between the mound and the outfield, but could play in the infield as well. After college, he signed on with the Cincinnati Reds and spent the 1949 season playing for his hometown Charleston Senators in the Class-A Central League, going 2-3 in 16 appearances.  That was the end of his baseball career.

For many players, the game was an opportunity to visit New York followed by a return to school and a life beyond baseball. One player in this category was Billy Pfaff of Philadelphia. He was chosen by Connie Mack who said, “this Pfaff boy seems to be built like a big leaguer.” Pfaff went on to the University of Pennsylvania, severed in the infantry during the Korean War, and went on to a successful career as a commercial banker.

The chief beneficiary of the three games in Brooklyn was Sandlot baseball. The monies raised, $22,371 in all, went to a foundation with the goal of providing greater opportunities for youngsters to play baseball and stay out of mischief. Over the coming years, boys from Brooklyn and Long Island would find their way to new fields with new equipment in any number of leagues.  Some would go on to big league careers and others would find their success elsewhere, fulfilling the vision of men like Lou Niss and his counterpart the other side of the East River.

Chapter 6

The Hearst Sandlot Classic – Founders, Managers, Personalities

In 1946, sportswriter Max Kase of the New York Journal American was instrumental in creating what came to be known as the Hearst Sandlot Classic. The game featured a team of New York All-Stars against a team of U. S. All-Stars. Early on, he enlisted the aid of Babe Ruth, who served as honorary chairman in 1947.

Harry Schlacht of the Journal American noted that Babe Ruth “set the spark which kindled a flaming torch in the hearts of the kids of the nation.” The Babe, himself stated that “The Hearst papers are doing a grand job in the sandlot program for the youngsters. It keeps the kids off the streets; It keeps them out of mischief; It builds them up physically; It helps them to become better citizens.”

The annual event was held at the Polo Grounds in New York through 1958. The game was moved to Yankee Stadium in 1959, as following the move of the Giants to San Francisco, the Polo Grounds was effectively abandoned.

Kase was also a driving force behind the Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the National Basketball Association. He went on to great fame and a Pulitzer when he broke the story of the basketball fixing scandal involving City College of New York, Long Island University, and New York University in 1951. He also was a founder of the B’nai B’rith Sports Lodge and ran without great publicity, a charity that aided needy families of sports figures. In 1986, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
The Sandlot Classic had the backing of William Randolph Hearst who, early on, stressed the goals of the program. “This program will be conducted in all Hearst cities from coast to coast. The purpose of the program will not be to develop players for organized baseball, but will be designed to further the spirit of athletic competition among the youth of America.”

Just getting into the game was no easy task. Hearst Newspapers throughout the country sponsored tournaments, All-Star contests, and elections to determine candidates for the game in New York.

In San Antonio, the elimination event was an All-Star game. After sponsoring the games in conjunction with the American Legion for the first three years of the Hearst games, the Light, in 1949 began an affiliation with the Wrambling Wrecks, a group of disabled veterans. Not only did the games determine the players to go to New York, but they also raised funds for charities supported by the Wrambling Wrecks. With each passing year, the event grew bigger and better, and over the years, greats of the game such as Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Frankie Frisch were on hand, along with scouts from every major league team. There was entertainment for the whole family and kids got in free. And, oh yes, one lucky spectator would drive away in a new automobile. Writer Harold Schweritz chronicled the event and even the most obscure of players were included in his coverage, because on that night really nobody was obscure and each of the players had stars in his eyes. He wrote these words in 1962.

“Fourteen years of contributing some fun to the local athletic scene has brought these men (the Wrambling Wrecks) banged up in World War II, before the public as good citizens as well as good soldiers. Most of them were athletes before the loss of legs, arms or eyes, paralysis or other war injuries put them on the sidelines as competitors. The Wrambling Wrecks have dived into the task of setting up the game, selling the tickets, and handling most of the details. The tasks assigned to various members have snapped them out of natural unhappiness over their war injuries in many cases. The sense of accomplishment and the realization that they are paying their way and doing something for their organization has turned out to be a beneficial therapy that can’t be bought. Their organization has gained a standing in the community with the best. Baseball has benefited and Texas has been supplying top flight ballplayers as its representatives in the New York game.”

Although only five of the 39 players from the Texas games who represented San Antonio in New York over the years went on to the major leagues (including one man who was still in uniform 54 years after his first San Antonio appearance), many of the stories involve players who didn’t make it to the show. They, like the Wrambling Wrecks, made a contribution, often off the playing field.

In 1953, following the annual San Antonio- South Texas All-Star game, the San Antonio Light sent Ernie Oosterveen and Eusebio “Chevo” Contreras to the big city. In New York, they saw two Yankee games, attended a performance at the Radio City Music Hall, stayed at the prestigious Hotel New Yorker, and got to play at the Polo Grounds. Oosterveen, a pitcher, retired the side in order, with two strikeouts, to save the win for the U. S. All-Stars.

When it was all over, they had a wonderful memory. Contreras, who went on to play at the University of Texas and was chosen one of the top 100 Laredo area athletes of the 20th Century, received some attention from St. Louis Browns scout George Peters, but never signed with a major league team. As a young man, Contreras, a Mexican-American from Laredo, had to contend with language issues. When his high school team went to Austin to play in the Texas State Championships in 1952, they were the only team that consisted of Spanish-speaking players. He played semi-pro ball in the Laredo area for many years, and finally at age 27, played professionally appearing in 30 games in the Mexican League in 1962. Later on, he served as coach at Martin High School and Nixon High School in Laredo.

Ernie Oosterveen

Ernie Oosterveen, a graduate of Jefferson High School in San Antonio, had just completed his freshman year at the University of Arizona and he had “sparkled in local (San Antonio) baseball since he was large enough to hold a bat.” In the San Antonio-South Texas All-Star game, he secured his trip to New York by pitching three perfect innings. He struck out six, and the only ball to leave the infield was a fly ball to left field by Contreras. He was one of five members of the San Antonio squad to sign contracts with major-league teams. None of the five made it to the major leagues.

Oosterveen starred at the University of Arizona, going 6-2 in 1956 and pitching a 1-0 shutout with 11 strikeouts as Arizona eliminated New Hampshire in the 1956 College World Series. On short rest, he started the final game, and was knocked out early, as Arizona lost to Minnesota 12-1. He also pitched semi-pro ball with Gary Bell for the Texas Consolidated Transporters of the Spanish American League in San Antonio, and in June, 1956, signed with the Cincinnati Reds . He played in the minor leagues through 1960, getting as far as Class B. His record over the course of his years in the minors was 17-21. He entered the Army after the 1960 season and while pitching in the Army, went 25-1.

Oosterveen, who was raised by his grandparents, was very active in the YMCA. On the Y’s website, Ernie is quoted as saying, “We lived in a tough part of town. Gang members would throw rocks at us and carry chains for fighting.” His uncle took him to the Y so that he could have a safe place with positive role models. After serving in the Army, he and his wife Sandy settled in Edmonds, Washington. He worked 10 years for the Government and spent 30 years as a salesman for Mead Corporation, retiring in 1998.

He has worked with the Mariners, helping out in their ticket office. He also works as an interpreter for the team. When he was pitching, he didn’t throw hard enough to hurt his arm, and was enjoying life and his family at age 79 in 2013.

Boston, with the support of the Boston Record-American, hosted a regional Classic for many years, starting in 1946 and continuing through 1971. Most of the games were held at Fenway Park. In 1946 and 1948, the game was staged at Braves Field. In 1949, the game was held at Fallon Field. Boston sent Harry Agganis (1947), George Bullard (1946), Joe Coleman (1964), Billy Conigliaro (1963-64), Tony Conigliaro (1960-1962), John Cumberland (1965), John Doherty (1969), Shaun Fitzmaurice (1960-61), Russ Gibson (1956), Bob Guindon (1959-60), Fran Healy (1963), Richie Hebner (1965), Walter Hriniak (1960), Frank Leja (1953), Skip Lockwood (1962-63), Don Mason (1962), Bill Macleod (1959), Bill Monboquette (1954), Danny Murphy (1958), Norman Roy (1946), Mike Ryan (1960), and Wilbur Wood (1958-59) to the majors.

The Boston program was strongly supported by Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. In 1961, he noted that several players in the Red Sox organization, including Gibson, Guindon, Macleod, Monbouquette, Ryan, Wood, and Chuck Schilling who the Sox signed off the New York Sandlots had participated in the Hearst program. Over the years, the Red Sox signed 12 Hearst Alums that made it to the majors, and the 1964 had roster included six players who could trace their roots to the Hearst Sandlot classic.

Yawkey noted, “This is a great program. I mean it. I went down to the locker-room and met some of the kids, the winners and the losers. They’re fine boys, outstanding, clean cut. They learn so much from tournaments like these. I could go into all the levels of it – juvenile delinquency, teamwork, the importance of sports in the fight for a free world. Most of all, though, it’s the fact that a kid can learn to be a man, how to take it, how to win, and how to lose. And a kid learns confidence in himself. You just can’t buy that.”
Day after day through those years, the scribes of the Boston American hyped the game and the cause. In 1956, it was writer Austin Lake’s turn. “This I know. Give a boy a baseball. Show him how to use it, and you have control of the boy. There are no delinquents on our playing fields. The program will sift and sort the best lads from the compass corners of the U. S. for the annual title game at New York on August 22, but first 30 boys are being selected for the New England championship game at Fenway Park on August 7. Best two of that collection will go to New York. It is opportunity’s Golden Door.”

The games in Boston continued for six years after the Journal-American ceased publication and the “Journal-American” game faded into history. In 1969, John Doherty represented Reading, Massachusetts in the game. He subsequently went on to sign with the California Angels. In 1974, he made it to the majors, and played in 104 games over two seasons, batting .240. His first major league hit, a double, came on June 5, 1974 in an Angels win over Milwaukee. Credited with the win in the game was fellow Hearst alum Skip Lockwood, also from Boston.

In the final year of the games at Boston, 1971, 1,023 young men attended tryouts held in nine locations to select players for the games at Fenway Park. 90 players were selected for the semi-finals on July 29. 45 young men played in the morning game, and the other 45 played in the afternoon. 15 players from each of these games (30 in total) went on to play in the final game on Monday, August 2.

The final game went eleven innings and the Record and Advertiser teams were tied at 6-6 when play was halted.

One of the top finalists was Glenn Tufts, who excelled at Raynham High School in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He was so highly thought of that the Cleveland Indians made him their first pick (fifth overall) in the 1973 draft. Glenn never made it to the majors as his career was derailed by an automobile accident. After four minor league seasons, during which he batted .240, he stayed in baseball and, in 2014, was in his 20th year as a scout with the San Francisco Giants.

Catcher Paul “Bunky” Smith was chosen the game’s MVP and received the Harry Agganis Trophy. He went 3-for-5 in the game and scored two runs for the Advertiser team. He was drafted by the Red Sox in1971, but only got as far as Class A in three minor league seasons. The pitching star of the final game was pitcher Bill Andraktos who won the Smoky Joe Wood Award. Pitching for the Record team, he faced nine batters, retired all of them and struck out eight in the process. He was chosen the game’s pitching MVP but was unsigned.

But the experience of a youngster from Everett, Massachusetts is the stuff from which miracles are made. Picked for the 90-man squad was a 16-year-old infielder who would not be denied his place. He went to tryout after tryout before being selected as one of the 90 semi-finalists. Then in the morning game on July 29, he went 1-for-2, scored the winning run, made the best fielding play of the game and was selected as one of the 30 young men to play in the finals. The personification of persistence, he eventually became far better known for his ice hockey skills, and Mike Eruzione captained the United States Olympic team to the Gold Medal in the Miracle on Ice in 1980.

Do you believe in miracles? For Hundreds of Esquire, Brooklyn Against the World, and Hearst Participants in games from 1944 through 1971, the answer is a loud, resounding – YES!

Other Newspapers that sponsored Hearst events included the Milwaukee Sentinel, the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald-Express, Baltimore News-Post, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Detroit Times, the Albany Times-Union , the Chicago Herald-American, and the Oakland Post-Enquirer.

But in those days, the epicenter of Baseball in America was New York City. During the first twelve years of the Hearst Classic, there were three major league teams in New York. From 1947 through 1958, at least one New York team was in the World Series, and in seven of those years, the entire Series was played in New York. Children in New York grew up with baseball. There was little else. Young boys would find their way to a vacant sandlot, choose up sides and play as long as darkness, or an unforgiving mom summoning a child home for dinner, would allow. Stickball in the streets took on various forms, depending on the neighborhood. Home runs in the street were measured by distances between sewers or, in the suburbs, distances between telephone poles. When it rained, young boys would spend their time indoors playing board games and talking baseball. Long before “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke” became a musical refrain, it was very much the core of discussions, especially during those years from 1954 through 1957. And in New York, the best of the players honed their skills on the better groomed fields in any number of leagues.

In New York, the involvement of the Journal-American in boys’ baseball began in 1945. It was a local affair with support from the Police Athletic League (PAL), Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), Kiwanis, New York City Baseball Federation, and the Queens-Nassau Alliance. Heading up the program was Ethan Allen, a former major leaguer who had compiled a .300 batting average during a 13 year career with six major league clubs. While with the Phillies in 1934, he led the National League in doubles with 42 while batting .330. After his playing days, he served as coach at Yale for 26 years from 1943 through 1969.

Allen’s impact on the youth of America was major – a least to one young fan growing up on Long Island. In the 1950’s, he created a board game called All-Star Baseball. A generation of young fans would spend hours spinning the dial hoping for a home run from players of a bygone era. While at Yale, he coached a young George Herbert Walker Bush.

He also coached Dick Tettelbach, who had a brief major league career with the Yankees and Senators. Reflecting on Allen, Tettelbach said, “He was so thorough on fundamentals. When I got to pro ball after being exposed to Ethan for three or four years, I really knew more baseball than most of the guys in the major leagues. He knew it inside and out. Ethan Allen was A-plus, totally the best coach I ever played for.”

At the end of the summer of 1945, there was a citywide tournament, and the Gallahads of the Queens-Nassau Alliance won the first New York City Sandlot Championship.

In 1946, the scope of the sandlot program was increased. Hall-of-Famer Walter James Vincent “Rabbit” Maranville succeeded Allen as Director, and the first Hearst Sandlot Classic, bringing in boys from around the country was held. The New York team was selected from tryouts held in the leagues that comprised the Journal-American City Sandlot Alliance. Maranville, in addition to heading up the program, managed the New York contingent.

Maranville was truly one of the game’s legends. He began his major league career in 1912 with the Boston Braves and played in the majors for 23 years. An exceptional middle infielder, he still holds the career record for assists with 8,967. As his career wound down his defensive skills were as good as ever. In 1930, at the age of 38, he led the league’s shortstops in fielding percentage and two years later he moved to second base and duplicated the feat. Not noted for his batting, he nevertheless ranks 19th all-time with 177 triples. After his major league playing days ended, he went back to the minor leagues. In 1936, at the ripe-young-age of 44, he batted .323 as a player-manager for the Elmira Pioneers in the Class A New York-Penn League, and was named to the League’s All-Star team as a second baseman. As noted in his obituary in the New York Times, “he established himself as one of the greatest little men (he only stood 5’ 4”) baseball has ever known and also endeared himself to followers of the national pastime as an outstanding personality.” Long before Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente, Maranville had mastered the basket catch to the delight of his fans. Of his defense, it was stated that “his ground covering ability was amazing, he had sure hands and a strong accurate throwing arm, and he supplemented his mechanical talents with unrivaled dash and verve.”

In his capacity as director, Maranville arranged clinics for youngsters in the New York area under the tutelage of players, coaches, and managers from the three New York major league squads. In the weeks leading up to the 1946 event, he contributed a daily column in the New York Journal-American extolling the talents of his 20 man roster. He also had a hand in publishing The Sandlotter, a newsletter that was mailed out periodically during the season. Although sentiment did play a role in his election to the Hall of Fame in 1954, (he had died just prior to the voting), his work with the youth program and his stellar defense during 23 major league seasons were also significant factors.

Arthur Daley of The New York Times was an ardent supporter of Maranville, voting for him several occasions before he gained entrance to the Hall of Fame in 1954. Maranville had been named on 62.1% of the ballots in 1953. Noting Maranville’s off-the-field escapades (he definitely enjoyed a good time), Daley stated that “there was a certain amount of irony in the fact that the Rabbit’s later years were spent in doing an extraordinarily fine job in promoting sandlot baseball for The Journal-American. He was helping and inspiring the kids, although he would have shuddered in horror if any of them had ever followed his (off-the-field) example. But maybe there was not so much irony in his job at that. The Rabbit was always a kid himself, a Peter Pan who didn’t want to grow up.”

George Vecsey of The New York Times set off a firestorm of sorts when he stated, in 1989, that Maranville’s two greatest attributes were longevity and good deeds as the sandlot ambassador for a newspaper chain with many Hall of Fame Electors. Within a couple of weeks, a deluge of letters appeared on his desk. The Rabbit, indeed, was worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Ray Pecoraro

Maranville didn’t miss much on the field. In the 1948 game, young Ray Pecoraro of the New York All-Stars singled with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, and was caught in a run down as he tried to stretch his hit into a double. He didn’t notice that U. S. All-Star shortstop Al Facchini had chased down the ball and gunned it in. The contest was close. At the time of Pecoraro’s hit, his team was down by two runs. The next batter, Pecoraro’s Brooklyn teammate, Bobby Pasquale, grounded out to end the game, depriving another of Ray’s friends, John Mirabile an at-bat. Years later, Pecoraro, who became an attorney in Brooklyn, remembered that Maranville “bawled the hell out of me. ‘Two runs behind and you gamble like that.’ he said. “Embarrassed me, but I never made that mistake again.” Pecoraro grew up playing on the Brooklyn sandlots, and graduated from Lafayette High School and St. John’s University. He did not play professional baseball.

Pecoraro’s Lafayette High School team in Brooklyn won the New York Public School Athletic League (PSAL) Championship in 1947, his junior year, defeating Grover Cleveland High School. The championship game was very much a roller coaster ride for Ray and his teammates. Pecoraro had given Lafayette a 1-0 lead in the first inning by stealing home. The “Frenchies” expanded the lead to 4-0, but Cleveland came storming back, helped by two Pecoraro errors, to take a 9-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Lafayette scored five runs in the ninth inning, including two on a suicide squeeze play, to knot the score at 9-9, and the winning run scored in the tenth when, with two outs, Pecoraro singled in Ken Aspromonte from third with the winning run, going from goat to hero. Pecoraro hit .407 in his junior year and was highly regarded. Jimmy Murphy noted in the Brooklyn Eagle that “Pecoraro plays center field like Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees, whose style he has aped to perfection. He can come in and go back equally for drives, owns a power arm, and is a human greyhound getting over the ground. Capitalizing on his fleetness has made him a marvelous base stealer.”

Although some scouts looked his way, Ray elected to stay close to home. He finished St. John’s in three years and went on to the University’s law school. He came out of law school with a commission in the Marines, served with the Marines, and came home to practice law in Brooklyn. He was still practicing in 2013, 65 years after his appearance in the Hearst Classic.

Mike Napoli

Maranville also extolled the values of his players to the many writers and scouts in attendance at the Hearst games. In 1950, he applauded a youngster from Brooklyn’s Kiwanis League who was a member of the New York All-Stars. The kid, who had also stared at Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School, was “the best looking backstop prospect I have seen anywhere” and predicted that the kid from Bensonhurst was “only two years from the big leagues.” The kid’s name is Mike Napoli. Also impressed with Napoli during the practices leading up to the game was Buck Lai, who was both a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the baseball coach at Long Island University. After graduating from Lafayette High School, where he was a teammate of Pecoraro’s, Napoli went to LIU on a scholarship. He completed his freshman year and signed with the Dodgers in 1951for $10,000. The first monies spent from that bonus were for a washer and dryer for his parents’ home in Brooklyn.

Except for a two year stint in the military, he was in the Dodger farm system through 1961. His travels took him to ten different teams in nine leagues at five classifications. He got as high as Triple-A, and spent some spring training time in 1956 and 1957with the big club, but never got to the show. After his playing days were over, he settled in Fort Worth, Texas, working in security with General Motors for 27 years. He had spent the entire 1956 season and part of the 1957 season at Fort Worth, home to one of his mentors, Bobby Bragan. During his time in baseball, he developed a lasting friendship with Bragan, a former Dodger catcher who spent many years coaching and managing in the Dodgers minor league system. Bragan got his first managing job at Fort Worth in 1948, was with the Cats through 1952, and maintained strong ties to the community. Napoli and Bragan first met at the Dodgers minor league spring training facility in 1952, and Bragan took a liking to the youngster. Although Bragan wanted Napoli for his Fort Worth Squad, the Dodgers had other plans for Mike, placing him lower in the organization. Bragan and Napoli remained close over the years and Mike attended many functions that raised funds for the Bobby Bragan Foundation, an organization that awarded academic scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to afford a college education.

Maranville managed the New York team for the first eight years of the event. After Maranville died suddenly from a heart attack in January, 1954 at age 62, Al Simmons took over. Simmons, a Hall-of-Famer, got his start playing sandlot ball in Milwaukee as a youngster, and managed in the Classic for two years until his untimely death in 1956.

George Stirnweiss took over in 1956. “Snuffy” had played with the New York Yankees from 1943 through 1950, and won the American League batting title in 1945. His batting title came when, on the final day of the season, the official scorer reversed his ruling changing an error to a hit, giving Stirnweiss an average of .308544, which allowed him to edge out Tony Cuccinello (.308457) by the barest of margins. After the tragic death of Stirnweiss in a railroad accident, when his train went off the CRRNJ Newark Bay Bridge between Elizabethport and Bayonne, New Jersey, killing 48 people, Tommy Holmes took over in 1959.

Early on, Kase enlisted Ray Schalk and Oscar Vitt to lead the U. S. All-Stars. Schalk managed the team through 1948. He stepped aside after three years, as his contract as baseball coach at Purdue did not allow him to engage in any outside activities. At the time he left, he said that he “liked being around the kids and the biggest kid of all, Rabbit Marranville.” During the first game in New York in 1946 Schalk and Maranville would share stories of bygone days with anyone who would listen and the audience included Ralph Cannon of the Chicago Herald-American. Cannon relayed stories about the pranks of Eddie Collins and Kid Gleason, and the escapades of Jim Thorpe. As the Rabbit said of Thorpe, “What a guy! What and era!”

Vitt, who conducted the San Francisco Examiner baseball school in 1946 and assisted Schalk in 1947, took over the head job in 1948, ably assisted by such greats as Max Carey, Charlie Gehringer and Lefty Gomez, and stayed with the program until illness forced him to step aside in 1962, at which time Eddie Joost took over.

Vitt was a veteran of the game. He played with the Detroit Tigers from 1912 through 1918, and the Red Sox from 1919 through 1921. He teamed with Ty Cobb and roomed with Babe Ruth. The highlights from his playing days are not plentiful, but he did break up Walter Johnson’s bid for a no-hitter on June 9, 1918.Vitt went on to a successful managerial career. He spent eleven years in the Pacific Coast League, and led the Hollywood Stars to three consecutive league championship finals from 1929 through 1931. He went on to manage the Newark Bears of the International League in 1936-37, compiling a 197-110 record and winning the League Championship in 1937. That got him a ticket to the major leagues. He managed the Cleveland Indians from 1938 through 1940. Those Indians featured a young Robert Feller. Although he combined a winning record with the Tribe with two thirds and a second place finish, there was major dissension on the team, and he was let go after the 1940 season. He retired in 1942 after a two year stint in the Pacific Coast League, and turned to youth baseball, running a baseball school, in conjunction with the San Francisco Examiner.

Frank Graham of the Journal-American said this of Vitt: “As a young fellow playing ball with the Tigers and the Red Sox, Oscar Vitt was full of zing. Now in his fifties, graying and wearing spectacles, he is – you guessed it – full of zing. The kind of guy who, if he lives to be a hundred or more, will not change. You know why the kids like him so much. He has the gift of remembering his own youth. He doesn’t have to tell that to the kids with whom he works. They know it just by looking at him and listening to him. The mistakes they make on the field are the mistakes he made long ago, and he doesn’t attempt to conceal it from them.”

His coaching philosophy was summed up in these words quoted by Graham in 1949. Graham noted that Vitt wanted his players to learn from their mistakes. Vitt said, “Sure, you don’t have to tell me. I did it (booting a ball or throwing to the wrong base). But look. Next time don’t try to throw the ball before you pick it up. You can’t do it. I tried to do it before you were born, and it didn’t work then either. And when you have to make a throw, look around and see where the ball can do the most good before you let go of it. You threw to the wrong base? Sure you did. But so have all the great ballplayers I’ve ever seen. Once anyhow. The reason they became great ballplayers is that they didn’t make a habit of it. Don’t you either.”

More than 80 of the young men on the rosters of the U. S. All-Stars and the New York All-Stars made their way to the major leagues including Hall-of-Famers Al Kaline (1951), and Ron Santo and Joe Torre (1958). From 1948 through 1985, there was at least one Hearst alumnus playing in the major leagues. In 1959, each American League team had at least one Hearst alum on its roster, and in 1960, the National League could make the same boast.

At least one Hearst player appeared in the World Series in each year from 1951 through 1975, and in the 1957 World Series, five participants could trace their start to the Hearst Classic. Two Hearst participants managed World Series champions. If you broaden this list to include the Esquire and Brooklyn Against the World games, the World Series streak goes back to 1949, and the count for the 1957 World Series goes to seven.

There were All-Stars galore, 37 in all. For four consecutive years (1957-1960), there were nine alums of the Esquire, Brooklyn Against the World, and Hearst programs in each of the All-Star games. And there was at least one Alum in every All-Star Game from 1951 through 1978.

Chapter 7

Hearst Sandlot Classic – 1946

Inaugural Game Sends Nine Players to Majors

The year 1946 was the year of the Mexican League’s incursion into the major leagues. Several players accepted the lure of big money but several were coming disenchanted as the calendar rolled into August. Dominating the headlines in many of the Hearst papers were stories involving Mickey Owen who had become disenchanted with Mexico and was seeking to be reinstated. He and all the other players who skipped were banned from major league baseball, and the ban was not lifted until 1949. Attempts to unionize major league players were in their infancy, but that didn’t stop the Pittsburgh Pirates from threatening to strike in June.

Against this backdrop, the inaugural Hearst game was played on August 15, and set the bar as to the visitors having a lifetime memory. Seats to a Yankee-Red Sox game on August 10, a day at Long Island’s Jones Beach, a reception at the residence of New York’s Mayor, a trip around Manhattan Island by boat, a Broadway Show – that year it was “Showboat”, a trip to West Point, dinner at the Bear Mountain Inn, accommodations at the Hotel New Yorker, and an opportunity to perform in front of major league scouts and meet with major league players. Nine players, including Herb Adams, Jim Baxes, Billy Harrell, Chris Kitsos, Billy Loes, Jimmy Mangan, Norman Roy, Paul Schramka, and Earl Smith from the inaugural teams, would go on to play in the big leagues. The game was won 8-7 in eleven innings by the New Yorkers in front of 15.269 fans.

Interestingly enough, the first injury victim in Hearst history was U. S. All-Star manager Ray Schalk, whose ankle was injured when he was stuck by a line drive. During the practice sessions leading up to the game, Schalk was aided by Cub’s Scout Jim Smilgoff and Yankees’ coach John Schulte. In a scrimmage prior to the game, Chicago’s Herb Adams pitched and retired the three batters he faced, earning the starting assignment for the August 15 contest.

The first ball was thrown out by New York City Mayor William O’Dwyer. Umpiring that first game was the dean of umpires and reigning National League Umpire-in-Chief, Hall-of-Famer Bill Klem. He was assisted by Butch Henline and Albert “Dolly” Stark. Klem and Henline had also, of course, along with semi-pro umpire, Jim Druggoole, umpired the inaugural Brooklyn Against the World games earlier in August.

Each time the U. S. All-Stars put runs on the board, they were matched by the New York squad. They jumped to a one run lead in the fourth inning and were matched by the Journal-American lads. In the sixth inning, each team put up a four spot and the game was tied 5-5 going into the ninth inning. Ed Burrows of San Antonio, who didn’t play organized baseball, put the visitors up by two runs with a ninth inning single, but for a third time the New Yorkers were able to provide an answer.

The game went into extra innings when Chris Kitsos of the New York squad, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, singled in two runs to knot the score at 7-7. Kitsos was on third in the bottom of the 11th inning and scored on a wild pitch for the game-ender. He stole two bases during the course of the contest.

The starting pitcher in that first Hearst game for the U. S. All-Stars was Herb Adams from Chicago, who was accompanied to New York by writers Ralph Cannon and Tommy Kouzmanoff of the Chicago Herald-American. Adams, and the other Chicago representative Jimmy Karras, a first baseman, were both in the starting lineup for the U. S. All-Stars. In subsequent years, it was unusual for two players from the same city to be in the starting lineup.

Adams had earned his way on to the squad by virtue of his performance in an All-Star game at Wrigley Field on July 1. Behind the plate in that game was umpire Al Barlick who went on to become the dean of National League umpires. A crowd of 18,828 looked on at Chicago’s Wrigley Field as the Chicago Area All-Stars defeated the City League All-Stars 6-3. Not only did the 5’ 7” 145 pound Adams star on the mound, but he also went 3-for-5 at the plate. In the game in New York on August 15, he threw three hitless innings, striking out, at one point, four consecutive batters. He signed with his hometown White Sox in 1947 as an outfielder and batted .405 in his first minor league season with Class-D Madisonville, Kentucky.

That opened a few eyes and he was promoted to Hot Springs in the Class-C Cotton State League in 1948. With Hot Springs, his league leading .375 batting average was 61 points higher than that of the runner up. His league leading 28 doubles accounted for the lion’s share of his 41 extra base hits. He led the league in total bases (280) and drove in 67 runs. He was selected his league’s Most Valuable Player. It was no wonder that, at the end of the season, he was called up by the White Sox and made his debut on September 17 against the Philadelphia Athletics. He was inserted into the leadoff spot in the order and, in his fourth at-bat singled off Wally Holborow for his first major league hit, played parts of three seasons with the Sox before he was traded to Cleveland at the end of the 1950 season. However, he couldn’t report right away, as he was drafted. After a two-year stint in the Army, he reported to spring training with the Indians in 1953. Cleveland sent him to the minors, and he played in the minors through 1959. He never returned to the big leagues. His major league career had concluded in 1950 at age 24. He batted .261 in 95 big league games. Over the course of eleven minor league seasons, he batted .312.

Adams was matched against Rudy Yandoli who represented the Brooklyn Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). The two didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. Yandoli, who attended St. John’s Prep, signed with the new York Giants and was nothing short of spectacular during his first three minor league seasons, going 50-21. In 1951, at Sunbury, Pennsylvania in the Interstate League, he was 17-10 with a 2.57 ERA. Uncle Sam then called and his career was effectively derailed. He was dealt to Cincinnati before the 1954 season and appeared in only two lower level minor league games without a decision.
The first player to break through against either pitcher was the MVP of that very first game – Dimitrios Speros “Jim” Baxes of Mission High School in San Francisco, who could easily be mistaken for Joe DiMaggio, to whom he bore an uncanny physical resemblance. Not only did he come from the same city as the Yankee Clipper, but he also adopted Joe’s batting style.

Baxes had been selected to go to New York after participating in the San Francisco Examiner’s baseball school. During the month of June, the newspaper encouraged boys 11 years of age and older young men to sign up for the program, and during the first three weeks of July, the boys were put through their paces at the Big Rec in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and other playgrounds throughout the city. Heading up the program were baseball veterans Oscar Vitt, Tony Lazzeri, and Willie Kamm. Once the clinics ended on July 19, a tournament was held to select the lucky pair of young men who would go to New York.

Baxes, a second baseman, tore things up in the Classic. The first of his three hits was a fourth inning double that led to his team’s getting into the scoring column, taking a 1-0 lead. Each of his other hits, both singles, factored in rallies that accounted for all of his team’s runs. Although his team lost, he was clearly the star of the game, going 3-for-6. Baxes was signed by the Dodgers in 1947, and made several minor league stops before making it to the majors in 1959.

Jim said, upon his arrival in Los Angeles, “I really like baseball well enough to be playing at any level, but I honestly have always had it in the back of my head that sooner or later I would get my chance in the majors and stick.” As Melvin Durslag of the Los Angeles Examiner noted, “His fantastic peregrinations are unmatched by any Greek since the poet Homer made his Odyssey to Thebes, Troy, and Chavez Ravine. You picture a man covering all this ground as having a line of, say, ladies’ hosiery of Friendly Indian Hair Cream made from a formula that has been in the tribe 150 years. To see a fellow like Baxes in the big leagues at last is a sight of unalloyed pleasure, for he and his family have waited this moment for longer than it takes a guy to earn a medical degree.”

1959 would be his only major league season. He got into his first game on Opening Day and played in each of the Dodgers first eight games, before being benched in favor of Jim Gilliam. Before going to the bench, Baxes homered in back to-back games at the Los Angeles Coliseum against St. Louis on April 15 and April 16. He was batting .303 in 11 games with the Dodgers when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in early May. He got into 77 games for the Tribe. In 280 major league at bats he batted .246 with 17 homers and 39 runs batted in.

Billy Harrell, who also appeared in the 1947 game, holds the distinction of being the first player of color to appear in the Hearst Classic and make it to the majors. Harrell, who was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, grew up in Troy, New York, and after playing in the Classic, attended Siena College, where he also played basketball. One of his best hoop efforts came at Madison Square Garden when he starred as Siena upset Manhattan College on December 3, 1949 in the National Catholic Invitational Championship. He was so appreciated during his time at Siena that they held a special night in his honor on February 14, 1952. The festivities began with a parade from Troy High School to the Albany Armory where Siena was facing Williams College, and concluded with a halftime ceremony. In 1962, he became the third person inducted into Siena’s Sports Hall-of-Fame, and in 2009, he was among the first group of players selected for the Capital District Basketball Hall of fame in Albany, New York. He played briefly for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League in 1951 and was signed by Hank Greenberg of the Indians in 1952. Over the next three years, he starred in the minors at Cedar Rapids (.325), Reading (.330) and Indianapolis (.307) before playing with the Tribe in parts of the 1955, 1957, and 1958 seasons.

In those days spring training was a difficult time for the young black players. Late in life he recalled his experiences in an interview with Douglas Branch of the Albany Times Union. We took a lot of crap. (White teammates) Rocky Colavito and Herb Score had to get my food and bring it back on the bus (multiple times on the road). I couldn’t play against the Red Sox (in Winter Haven , Florida) because it was a city ordinance that African-Americans could not play with Whites. You had to know what towns you were going through. That is the the way it was coming up (from Florida to the North).”

He played at Triple-A Rochester in the Cardinals organization in 1959 and 1960. In 1960, he batted .293 with 15 homers and 78 RBIs. He was selected by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft and made his last major league stop in Boston in 1961.

In his time in the majors, he batted .231 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs. After finishing up with the Red Sox in 1961, he stayed on in their minor league system through 1966, and his career minor league numbers were impressive. He batted .284 with 114 homers and 573 RBIs in 13 minor league seasons.

Harrell’s appearance in 1946 Hearst game was even more historical in that, when he played in the Hearst Classic for the first time, Major League Baseball was not integrated. In light of Harrell’s appearance, Heavyweight Champion Joe Lewis bought 1,000 tickets for the game, and these tickets were distributed by The Amsterdam News to children in Harlem.

The picture below was taken when Siena retired Harrell’s number (he was the first player to be so honored) in 2006.

In Boston, the players were selected on Monday August 5 at Braves Field. Norman Roy of Waltham, Massachusetts was selected for the trip to New York. After the game in Boston, all of the participants were taxied to the Hotel Kenmore for a luncheon at which it was announced that Roy and George Mennard would be heading to New York. As a senior at Waltham High School, he began his season with a no-hitter against Middlesex and followed it up with a one-hitter, striking out 15, but his team lost to Watertown, 1-0. He started the game at Braves Field in center field and then took to the mound, pitching the last three innings. He was 1-for-3 at the plate and didn’t allow a run as his “Squad B” team won the game 5-1.

The only run for “Squad “A” came via a home run off the bat of Frank “Shotgun” Seastrand in the opening inning. Seastrand was not selected to go to New York, but signed with the Braves and made it as far as Class-C, hitting 61 homers in five minor league seasons. Another player not selected to go to New York was George Bullard. He signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1950 and after batting .341 at Durham in the Class-B Carolina League was called up to the Tigers at the end of the 1954 season. Bullard got into only four games. His first three appearances were as a pinch-runner. In his final appearance, on September 25 at Cleveland, he entered the game at shortstop in the bottom of the sixth inning. He had just one plate appearance, grounding into a force out.

The game in Boston lasted 12 innings, not due to the game being tied, but so as to allow the judges to get a look at all the players. Mennard, a catcher, had two hits in the Boston game. He impressed his coaches and was named to start the game in New York, despite, in a practice session, slamming a foul ball off Ray Schalk’s ankle that sent the manager to the hospital for x-rays.

Roy had the good fortune to see his hero, Ted Williams, at Yankee Stadium during an August 10 game between the Yankees and Red Sox. It was then Normie’s chance to go for the fences, which he did, launching a homer during a practice session at the Polo Grounds days prior to the big event. Prior to game time, however, Ray Schalk inserted John Darling in the lineup in lieu of Roy. Roy’s parents were both in the service, stationed overseas. His mother, a WAC Captain, was stationed in Germany and did her best to fly home for the game , but didn’t make it. In the crowd, lending moral support were Norm’s grandparents, who flew down from Boston. Roy entered the game as a pinch hitter for Darling in the sixth inning and singled. He came around to score as the U. S. squad scored four times in the frame. He singled again in the seventh inning. In the ninth inning, his sacrifice played a big role in his teams scoring a pair of runs and sending the game into extra innings. The only time he was unsuccessful at the plate was when he flied out in the tenth inning.

He signed as a pitcher with the Boston Braves prior to the 1947 season. In his first season at Pawtucket, where he pitched to a 6-1 record, he was struck by a line drive, losing four teeth. Over the next two seasons, he went a combined 21-12 with Milwaukee in the American Association, to bring his record to 27-13 over three minor league seasons. He spent the entire 1950 season with the Braves in Boston, going 4-3, with two complete games. His career in the majors ended at age 21.

Of the players in the 1946 Classic that made it to the majors, the best success was enjoyed by Billy Loes. Loes, after appearing in the 1948 Brooklyn Against the World games, was signed by the Dodgers on August 20, 1948 for a bonus estimated at $22,000. Under the bonus rule in effect at the time, Loes could spend one year in the minors, after which he had to be placed on the major league roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He split the 1949 season between Class-B Nashua (NH) and Class-AA Fort Worth, posting a 16-5 record. In 1950, with the Dodgers, he saw very little activity, getting into 10 games and pitching a total of 12 2/3 innings. After a year in the military, he returned to Brooklyn and posted a 50-25 record over the next four seasons. He was sold to Baltimore early in 1956 and finished up his career with the Giants in 1961.

Loes was a throwback to an earlier era with the Dodgers, where daffiness was part of the pedigree. As writer Jimmy Breslin noted in 1953 that, “A throwback to the old Brooklyn screwball tradition is young pitcher Billy Loes, the joy and despair of manager (Chuck) Dressen. Last year (1952), Loes picked the Yankees to win the World Series (against his Dodgers). This year, he predicted no Dodger pitcher would win more than fifteen games, then amended, “Better make it seventeen. I looked pretty good out there today.”

Perhaps the ultimate example of Loes’ daffiness occurred during the 1952 World Series. It was Game Six and Loes was handed the ball with the Dodgers ahead three games to two. For six innings, he was brilliant. The Dodgers led 1-0. In the seventh inning, Loes yielded a home run to Yogi Berra and then came a series of plays that stretched the imagination. Gene Woodling singled and, with Irv Noren batting, Loes took his stretch looked in for the signal, and somehow managed to allow the ball to drop from his grip. Of course, a balk was called and Woodling advanced to second. Loes retired Noren and Billy Martin. Woodling was still at second base with two outs as Yankee pitcher Vic Raschi stepped to the plate. Raschi hit a ground ball back to Loes and it appeared that the Dodgers would escape further damage – not quite. The ball bounced off Loes’ leg and went into right field, allowing Woodling to score the lead run. How did this happen? Loes maintained that he lost the ground ball in the sun! Loes reputation as a flake was sealed.

Adams’ battery mate in the first Classic was Jimmy Mangan from San Francisco. In 1945, Mangan had played in the East Bay – West Bay All-Star Game in San Francisco but missed out on going to the Esquire’s Game in New York. He signed with the Pirates in 1949 and made it to the big leagues, for the first time, in 1952. Over the next few years he shuttled back and forth between the majors and minors, getting into a total of 45 major league games during three seasons. He finished his major league career with the Giants in 1956.
Earl Smith was born in Washington and his family moved to Fresno, California when he was a child. He went to Bonita High School in Laverne, California where, upon graduation, he was honored as both the school’s outstanding scholar and the school’s outstanding athlete. A pitcher in high school, he was selected to represent Los Angeles in the 1947 Hearst Classic, and went to New York with his high school catcher Ed Zuber. After the Hearst game, he went to Fresno State for three years and signed with Pirates in June, 1949. He was stuck in their minor league system for far too long, but put up numbers in 1954 that forced the Bucs to take notice.

At Phoenix in the Class-C Arizona-Texas League, he batted .387 with 35 doubles, 11 triples, 32 home runs, and a league-leading 195 RBIs. In 1955, he finally got to the big club and wore number 21 for five games, garnering one hit in 16 at-bats. On April 29, he played his last game, and number 21 was reassigned for the last time – to Roberto Clemente. After baseball, Smith returned to Fresno. He and his wife Betty, who he married in 1949, raised three children. Earl, after baseball, operated a grocery store, and owned an almond ranch. He died in 2014 at the age of 86. His wife Betty, to whom he was married for 64 years said that, “Even though his career was shorter than he had hoped, it was still very important to him and he did enjoy all his baseball years.”

Paul Schramka

As brief as Smith’s career was, the career of Paul Schramka was even shorter. Schramka, who tripled in the Hearst game, signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1949. Prior to the Hearst Game, the graduate of Milwaukee’s Messmer High School had completed his freshman year at the University of San Francisco and had punched his ticket to New York by excelling in the Hearst Diamond Pennant Series All-Star Game held at Borchert Field in Milwaukee. The game that year, and for many years to come, was contested between teams managed by Bunny Brief and Jack Kloza, two stars from the 1930’s in Milwaukee. That year, Brief’s team defeated Kloza’s squad 8-2.

Schramka, playing for the Briefs, had a double, a single, and two stolen bases. Paul was accompanied to New York by pitcher Gil Gadzikowski, who had pitched two hitless innings in the Milwaukee game, striking out four. He also contributed at the plate, doubling in his only appearance. Milwaukee’s alternate that year as Red Wilson, who went on to play in the American League for ten seasons. All three had played in Milwaukee’s Stars of Yesterday League as youngsters.

“Playing in the Polo Grounds was a thrill,” Paul says unsurprisingly. He was the starting center fielder and the first batter in the game. He grounded out twice before tripling off the right-field wall in his five-inning stint. Aside from the game itself, played in front of nearly 16,000 fans, Paul enjoyed many unforgettable experiences on the week-long trip: the train ride to New York, staying in the luxurious New Yorker Hotel, an outing at Jones Beach, a tour of Radio City, and a Yankee-Red Sox game in Yankee Stadium.

He signed in 1948 with the Cubs organization after posting a .410 batting average during his final season in college. After playing at Des Moines in 1949-50, spending two years in the military, and having a good spring training in 1953, he started the season with the Cubs, wearing uniform number 14. Originally, he was slated to start in the season’s opener in place of the injured Hank Sauer, but a rainout delayed the opener and, when the team opened its season on April 14, Schramka did not start the game. He did, however, get into the game as a pinch runner in the seventh inning. His second, and last, appearance was on April 16 as a defensive replacement. He never came to the plate. A few days later, he was sent to the minors and number 14 was reassigned for the last time – to Ernie Banks.

After his time in organized ball, Schramka returned to Milwaukee where he took over the family’s funeral home business and stayed active by playing semi-pro baseball for the Falk Corporation. In 1957, Paul was proud to participate on the American team in a Global World Series in Detroit. It was the first event of its type and featured all-star teams from eight different countries. He was selected for the All-Series team. He also participated in the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita. Beginning in 1935, this annual event brought together the best sandlot and semi-pro teams from around the country. For thirty years Paul headed up the Old-Time Ballplayers Association of Wisconsin, a 2,500 member organization. On August 22, 2014, Paul was honored at the Polish-American Heritage Night baseball game in Milwaukee.

Gil Gadzikowski

On the trip from Milwaukee to New York, via Chicago, Schramka shared a railroad compartment with Gil Gadzikowski. Whereas Paul was “a man of the World”, having completed his freshman year of college, Gil was perhaps the youngest person ever to play in the Hearst Classic. He had been part of the “Stars of Yesterday” program in Milwaukee and in 1944, at age 13, had participated in an All-Star game at Borchert Field. At the time of the Hearst game in New York, he was still in High School and was 15 years, six months, and eight days young. In the Hearst Diamond Pennant Series All-Star Game held at Borchert Field, he was summoned from the bullpen to pitch the last inning. Everything worked for him as he struck out the first two batters he faced and induced Schramka to fly out to center field for the final out.

In New York, Gil was practicing at the Polo Grounds and had his picture taken with a player. Afterward, he asked his teammates who the player was. His teammates were in disbelief that Gadzikowski didn’t know that he had been next to the great Johnny Mize. Gil’s stay in New York included a trip to see the Rockettes at Radio City Musical Hall. While there, he had the misfortune of having his pocket picked and his wallet was gone when the boys returned to the Hotel New Yorker.

In the practices prior to the game, he impressed his manager Ray Schalk. “For a lad only 15, he shows plenty of promise. He’s plenty big now, but will continue to grow and that’ll help his speed. Some more experience will make him a pretty tough chucker.”

In the game itself, Herb Adams, after his stint as a starter, went to the bullpen to act as bullpen coach. The New Yorkers, down 5-1 at the time, mounted a rally in the sixth inning. On orders from Ray Schalk, Adams had Gadzikowski warm up. Two were out, and there was a runner on third base when Schalk gave the sign to the bullpen. Adams told Gil that he was in the game, in relief of Pittsburgh’s Joe Zugay. When Gil got to the mound, manager Schalk was dismayed to see that the wrong pitcher had been sent into the game.

Nevertheless, Gadzikowski took his warm-ups and faced his first batter with a runner on third base. He walked the batter on four pitches. To further worsen the situation, his third pitch had hit the plate and bounced to the backstop allowing the runner from third to score. Gadzikowski did not register an out and was replaced by Dick Carr of Baltimore.
Gil Gadzikowski never played organized baseball. He returned to Milwaukee and graduated from Marquette High School. Interested in the priesthood, he attended a seminary outside of St. Louis for four years and went on to study at the University of St. Louis. He went on to teach Greek and Latin at a Catholic boarding school in Wisconsin. Not long thereafter, he returned to Milwaukee and received his Masters Degree in Economics and left the ministry. He thought about returning to baseball, but quickly realized that he was not in shape. He went on to a career in banking and retired in 1992 after serving as the CEO at First Federal Savings and Loan in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Among the many players who did not make it to the big leagues was Ed Burrows, who represented San Antonio. For a short time in the game, it appeared that he would be the hero, as his ninth inning single had driven in two runs and put the U. S. team ahead, 7-5. But the New Yorkers tied up the game in their half of the inning. Burrows didn’t play organized ball but was playing two years later for the semi-pro Sweeney Oilers. He had occasion to talk with the young men who would be representing San Antonio in 1948 and tell them what a great time they could expect in New York.

Lil Arnerich

In the days leading up to the game, a shortstop from Oakland was heralded by coach Jim Smilgoff. Lil Arnerich, he said, “is a nice rangy, loose boy, nifty in both the feet and the hands. He can go to either side and he knows the rhythm of the glove. He can throw and hit. He would be my choice among all of them to go somewhere in baseball in the future.”
Anthony “Lil” Arnerich of Technical High School was one of two players representing the Oakland Post-Enquirer. Lil is one of six members of his family to play in organized baseball. In 1946, many hopefuls tried out for an all-star game between the Alameda County Athletic League and Oakland Athletic League. Two players from the All-Star game would be chosen to go to New York. Among those involved in the selection process was Casey Stengel, who was managing Oakland in the Pacific Coast League at the time. Arnerich was chosen for Oakland’s all-star game ahead of Billy Martin. Lil and Bill Van Heuit were later chosen to represent Oakland at the Hearst Game in New York. The shortstop played the entire eleven innings and went 1-for-6.

The thing that Lil was to remember most made nary a headline. One of the team’s coaches or the manager, as Lil recalls, harbored much in the way of bigotry and had a very unkind word for Billy Harrell, the team’s only person of color. Arnerich, who had been appointed the team captain, was quick to confront the older man when he heard the comment. He thought that he would be benched for speaking up against authority but he played the entire game.

Arnerich went on to play at St. Mary’s College and signed with the Oakland Oaks. The Oaks, like many teams in the Pacific Coast league, were unaffiliated, and had their own farm teams. The Oaks sent him to Bremerton, Washington in the Class-B Western International League where he spent most of 1948 and 1949. After batting .328 in 1949, he was called up to the Oaks at the end of the season and went 2-for-3. He never moved beyond the Triple-A level. After two more seasons in the minors, he left organized baseball. In his four minor-league seasons, he batted .294. He went on to become supervisor of athletics for the Alameda County Recreation Department, and continued to play softball for many years. Lil was very active in his community and served as a Deputy Mayor in Alameda. He stayed quite active and, at age 86, continued his daily exercise routine which included running 50 yards in less than six seconds. His son Mel played three seasons in the minor leagues with the Cleveland organization.

After the Hearst Game, those who participated went back to their homes. Some received heroes’ receptions and for others it was back to baseball. In New York, that meant the second annual citywide sandlot tournament that featured upwards of 600 teams. The championship, originally scheduled to be played at Yankee Stadium on September 21, was rained out and rescheduled at the Polo Grounds on Saturday September 28. The game was the opening game in a twin-bill. After the boys finished their game, Mel Ott’s New York Giants took on the Philadelphia Phillies.

For the second consecutive year, the winning team came from the Queens Alliance. This time it was the 34th Street Boys Club from Astoria. Their pitcher was the same Ed “Lefty” Ford who had not been used as a pitcher in Brooklyn Against the World. In the City Championship, he took to the mound against the Bay Ridge Cubs from Brooklyn, and earned himself the Lou Gehrig Award as the game’s most valuable player. He and Lou DeAngelis of the Bay Ridge squad engaged in one of the greatest pitching duels in Polo Grounds history. Ford allowed but two hits (singles in the fourth and ninth innings) and struck at 18 batters. On three occasions, he struck out the side. DeAngelis, through ten innings, had not allowed a hit. Ford broke up the no-hitter, leading off the bottom of the 11th inning with a double. He came around to score the winning run on a double by Donald Derr. One week later, Ford was signed by the Yankees for a $7,000 bonus, and his next game was as a professional.

And it wasn’t only baseball that was supported by the Hearst papers. They were equally famous for their sponsorship of junior golf.  In 1946, the finals of the Hearst National Junior Open Golf Tournament were held in Detroit at the famous Oakland Hills Country Club. On Monday, August 18, there were 16 pairings. In the final pairing of the lower bracket was a 17-year-old kid from Latrobe Pennsylvania representing the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. He won his first match 2-up, and went on to defeat Chicago’s Jimmy Lamb 1-up to advance to the semi-finals. He kept going, defeating Bob Harris of San Francisco, 2-and-1 in the semi-finals. In the finals, he was defeated by H. Macgregor Hunter of Los Angeles 6-and-5.  Hunter was dubbed the new Bobby Jones by writer Byron Schoeman  Little did he know that Hunter had defeated the new face of golf – Arnold Palmer.

 

Gino Cimoli

“They set all the records and we won the Game
Let ‘em stuff that on their mantelpieces”

That was Gino Cimoli’s comment after Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, won in dramatic fashion by the Pirates when Bill Mazeroski’s home run fell over the ivy in left field as Yogi Berra could only watch.

Cimoli had come to the Pirates in a trade prior to the 1960 season and, although not a star, played an important role as the team marched to their first pennant since 1927 and their first World Championship since 1925.

Gino Anichletto Cimoli was born on December 18, 1929 and grew up in the predominantly Italian-America section known as North Beach. When he was young, the middle name was changed to Nicholas. He was an only child, and he was the center of his parents’ lives. His father, Abramo, who immigrated from Italy, was a night supervisor for Pacific Gas and Electric. His dad was also a shrimp and crab fisherman who had a sideline making wine. It was not unusual for young Gino to go to school in purple feet. His mother, Stella, worked for Chase and Sandborn Coffee.

Gino graduated from Galileo High School in January, 1948. Gino, known primarily for his basketball exploits in High School, did not play baseball until his senior year (1947), so as to avoid the mandatory calisthenics sessions for the basketball team. His baseball success was astounding. In his one year of high school ball, playing for legendary Galileo coach Tom (The Fox) DeNike, he hit .607.

He became even more noticed for his baseball ability when he competed in the Hearst Sandlot Classic at New York’s Polo Grounds on August 13, 1947. He played left field for the U. S. All Stars in that game alongside the likes of Moose Skowron (who played right field) and Dick Groat (who played second base). They defeated the New York team, 13-2. Cimoli went 1 for 2, stealing a base and scoring a run.
He had been a top performer in basketball, and was named the MVP of the California North-South game on February 3, 1948 when he led the North team to a 60-44 victory, scoring 15 points. He was scouted and offered basketball scholarship by as many as 16 colleges, including the University of San Francisco. He also attracted interest from the Baltimore Bullets of the fledgling National Basketball Association.

He passed up the basketball scholarships, figuring he was too small at 6’ 1”, to make a career out of basketball.

In the summers of 1947-1948, he played semipro baseball for the Portola Merchants team in San Francisco. After completing High School, he enrolled at Menlo Junior College in the spring of 1948. Not long after, the major league scouts came calling.

He was actively recruited by Joe Devine of the Yankees, as well as Howie Haak of the Dodgers. Devine was speaking with Cimoli’s mom. Dodger brass, notoriously cheap, decided to loosen up, and told Haak to up the ante and work on Gino’s father. As Haak recounted it, he spent the better part of four days drinking Ancient Age with Gino’s father, Abramo, from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Gino’s father would then work the late shift as a night supervisor for PG&E, until midnight. Usually, after Gino’s father got home, there were scouts waiting. Howie, on the last night, went into the Cimoli house at 3:00 AM. It was decision time, so he asked Gino’s dad, “Who wears the pants in this family?” In short order, Dad woke up mom and Gino, and Cimoli was signed for $15,000.

It was not his last encounter with Howie Haak.

His switch from basketball to baseball enabled him to use the baseball bonus money to buy a house for his family in San Francisco.

Gino got a bit of notoriety that very first spring, on March 7, 1949, when he broke up a no-hitter in an intra-squad game at the Dodgers training complex in Vero Beach.

He was sent to Nashua in the New England League, where he played for Greg Mulleavy. Gino was not going to Nashua by himself. He had wed his High School sweetheart, Irene Zinn, on June 11, 1948, and she joined him, temporarily, in Nashua. She was expecting their first child later in the season.

The league started the season with eight clubs. Nashua was atop the standings in July when the league was forced to condense to four clubs. Providence (RI), Manchester (NH), Fall River (MA), and Lynn (MA) dropped out of the league due to financial issues. The remaining four clubs agreed to have the season split into two parts, with the second season, with a revised schedule, to commence on July 20. On July 3, Gino was hitting .370 with 6 triples. However, with the league in trouble, Dodger owner Branch Rickey began to reassign his top prospects including Gino, as well as Wayne Belardi and Billy Loes. Gino was sent to Montreal, the Dodgers AAA affiliate in the International League. Nashua wound up finishing behind Pawtucket (RI), Portland (ME), and Springfield (MA) in the final standings.

Gino’s season with Montreal was disappointing. In only his sixth game with the Royals, he injured his knee, crashing into a wall in Montreal in a game against Toronto, and saw limited action, mostly as a pinch hitter, in the team’s remaining games. He appeared in only 15 games with Montreal, batting .231. Montreal did win the International League Championship, and Cimoli did get some post season experience, playing in the Little World Series against Indianapolis. Indianapolis, the American Association Champion, won the series.

After the season was complete, he went home to San Francisco and saw baby Cheryll, then five weeks old, for the first time.

At the end of the season, the Dodgers exposed him in the annual Major-League draft of unprotected Minor Leagues, but there were no takers.

Gino Cimoli, still shaking off the effects of his injury, only played in 85 games for Montreal in 1950. He played alongside the likes of Chuck Connors and Tom LaSorda and hit .275. In the playoffs that year, Montreal was eliminated by the Baltimore Orioles in seven games.

Early in the 1951 season, Cimoli was sent to the Dodgers’ Double A affiliate in Fort Worth, where he hit .262, tying for the league lead in triples with 12. (A speedster, Cimoli hit more triples than home runs in both the majors and theminors.) One highlight of his season in Fort Worth came on May 10 when he tied the Texas League record for outfield assists in the same inning, throwing out two runners. Over the course of the season, he had 33 assists.

In 1951, as he told it, Cimoli and Ft. Worth teammate Bill Sharman worked out at Boston Garden. Sharman had played with the Washington Basketball team during the 1950-51 season after graduating from USC, and his rights had been obtained, during the off-season, by the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were also interested in Gino knowing of his achievements during his high school days. However, Gino elected to stay with baseball. Sharman signed with the Celtics, playing both NBA Basketball and Professional Baseball for several years until sticking exclusively with Basketball after the 1955 season.

In 1952, Cimoli began the season with Montreal, but six games into the season, Cimoli was sent to the St. Paul Saints, the Dodgers Triple A team in the American Association. In the early going, Gino had seven hits in nineteen at-bats with Montreal. With St. Paul, Gino hit .319 for the season, appearing in 142 games.
Off his 1952 performance, Gino was invited to the Dodgers Major-League training camp in 1953 for a tryout with the big club. However, he was not deemed ready, and it was back to St. Paul, where he batted only .262. One of his teammates on that squad was Don Zimmer, a most promising shortstop. Zimmer was amongst the league leaders in batting when his season was cut short by a beaning.

A frustrated Gino Cimoli held out prior to the 1954 season and was the last player signed. At the end of Spring Training, he was sent to St. Paul. In May, he was back in Montreal. His first games at Montreal were frustrating, and his manager, Max Macon, let him pitch. He had two outings as a pitcher. In the first, he pitched three perfect innings against Richmond. His next outing against Ottawa was far less impressive. He faced five batters, walking the first three, hitting the fourth, and giving up a triple to the fifth. That put an end to his pitching career. His hitting came around, and he hit for a .306 average.

That year, Montreal had a promising young outfielder on their team. They were trying to hide him. One day, Gino ran into Howie Haak, the scout that had signed him. He mentioned this outfielder was the best player in the league but wasn’t being played. Manager Max Macon admitted that indeed, the Dodgers were hiding him as the Dodger were overstocked with outfielders and elected not to include him on the twenty-five man roster. Haak, by then, was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. So was Branch Rickey, who had been the Dodger GM. His son, Branch Rickey, Jr., had scouted the young man in Puerto Rico. The Pirates wasted no time in drafting the young Puerto Rican prospect on November 22, 1954, and Roberto Clemente went on to a Hall of Fame career.

It was very difficult for Gino to break into the Brooklyn outfield. Duke Snider and Carl Furillo were set in Center and Right respectively. Left field seemed always up for grabs. After a good spring in 1955, Gino once again found himself in Montreal, as the Dodgers decided on Sandy Amoros as their left fielder.(Duke Snider and Carl Furillo were locked into center and right.) Walter Alston, the Dodger Manager, made few lineup changes and did not use his bench extensively. Had he stayed with Brooklyn, Gino would have gotten little in the way of meaningful playing time. Also, by that time, Cimoli had gotten the unenviable tag of “Lackadaisical Latin.”

Gino was well liked by his teammates, and was very competitive. On the way up North, the Dodgers were playing the Milwaukee Braves in Atlanta. Lou Burdette was pitching for the Braves against Joe Black of the Dodgers. Burdette was known to throw inside and on this day, he nailed Roy Campanella of the Dodgers. The next inning Burdette came up to the plate and Gino expected Black to drill Burdette. He didn’t. After the inning, Gino asked Black why he hadn’t retaliated. Black (who was an Afro-American) said, “We are in Atlanta. If I had done that, I would have been lynched.” Once the season began up North, Black wasted no time in hitting Burdette. Of course, by that point, Gino was back in Montreal.

Things did not bode well. Enroute to Montreal from San Francisco, Gino’s wife and two daughters were in a serious automobile accident in Rawlings, Wyoming, when their car collided with a bus. Gino left Montreal on May 12 to join his family. His five year old daughter, Cheryl, had sustained a broken leg, and three year old Linda had just emerged from a coma. His wife Ilene required thirty-five stitches in her arm. Gino was able to rejoin the Royals, but came back very much a changed man. He returned to the lineup on May 20, and delivered a home run and a double in a 6-2 win over Toronto. He also was reunited with Greg Mulleavy, for who he had played in Nashua in 1949.

Dick Carroll wrote for the Montreal Gazette during Gino’s tenure with the Royals. He quoted Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi stating that, “He’s really hustling, and he can just about cover the whole outfield by himself.”

He hit .306 for Montreal in 1955, and hopes were high for 1956.
1956 started early for Gino when he and twelve other promising minor leaguers reported to training camp early on February 22. However, he once again was fighting for a roster position and playing time with Amoros, who had made a game-saving catch to secure the Dodgers’ World Championship victory the prior season. Another leftfield candidate was second baseman Junior Gilliam, whose job was in jeopardy due to the emergence of Charlie Neal. Cimoli could no longer be optioned out by the Dodgers. After a good spring, Cimoli finally made it to the “Show” along with Neal and nineteen- year-old pitcher Don Drysdale.

He was also reunited with former St. Paul teammate Don Zimmer. As fortune would have it, Zimmer’s 1956 season was cut short by another beaning, this time by Hal Jeffcoat of Cincinnati.

Cimoli’s season was very disappointing. He only got into 73 games, often as a defensive replacement, and only came to the plate thirty-seven times, garnering four hits and a walk.

His first game appearance came in the team’s second game, a 5-4 win over the Phillies on April 19. The game was held at Jersey City, and Gino entered the game in the tenth inning as a defensive replacement for Junior Gilliam in left field.

Gino’s first hit came on April 23 in a 6-1 win over the Phillies in Philadelphia. He had gone in as a defensive replacement for Junior Gilliam in left field. He came to bat in the ninth and stroked a single off the Phillies’ Duane Pillette that drove in Carl Furillo who had doubled. It was a bone-chilling 40 degree evening. The game also marked the first major league win for Drysdale.

In May, Gino got some playing time in right field as Carl Furillo was benched. He had his first extra-base hit, a double, off Warren Hacker in a win over the Cubs on May 8, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Don Newcombe. However, once Furillo returned to the lineup, Gino was used most often as a defensive replacement for the regular outfield trio of Amoros, Snider, and Furillo.

At bats were rare, and frustrating. He got a start against the Giants’ lefthander, Johnny Antonelli on May 25th at the Polo Grounds. The Dodgers had a rally going in the second inning. Cimoli hit a hard drive down the first base line, but Bill White made the defensive play of the game, ending the rally. Cimoli went 0 for 3 as the Giants won 6-5.

His third RBI came in a ten inning win at Cincinnati on June 9. His last base hit of the year came on July 4.

In the World Series, he got into Game Two as a defensive replacement in a lopsided high scoring Dodger 13-8 win. He never got to bat. That was his only appearance.

But he had “the best seat in the house” for what was one of his career highlights – witnessing Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game Five.

Gino’s attitude had been such that could not hide his disappointment and, in the off-season, the Dodgers sought to trade him, but there were no takers.

After the 1956 season, Gino accompanied the Dodgers on a Goodwill Tour of Japan. It was during that tour that Gino’s attitude toward the game was to change. He had not played much in 1956, and often his play on the base paths and in the field had been erratic. Walter Alston felt it might be the time to give Gino the chance to play regularly.

Duke Snider related the following story. In one of his more interesting at-bats during the Japan tour, Cimoli hit a line drive up the middle. It careened off the pitcher’s head and into the outfield, rolling all the way to the right field corner. Gino wound up with a triple.

In one game, he scored all the way from second base on a sacrifice fly. That evening, Dodger Catcher Roy Campanella took Gino aside for a chat, telling him that he had all the tools, but his attitude had to change. His words, “Stop popping off, stay out of trouble, and play,” were taken to heart by Cimoli, and when spring training came, Cimoli was ready to turn his career around.

Jackie Robinson, who retired after the 1956 season, said, “Gino (in 1956) seemed more interested in bridge than in baseball.” Last year (1956) Gino seemed to be the last man out on the ball field. This year (1957) he’s the first.”

1957 was the breakout year for Gino Cimoli. The outfield of Sandy Amoros, Duke Snider, and Carl Furillo was aging, and Gino was inserted into the lineup on a more regular basis. Walter Alston found a place in the lineup for Cimoli. Sandy Amoros started less than 60 games in left field, and Junior Gilliam became the everyday second baseman, opening up left field for Cimoli. If he wasn’t stationed in left field, he would spell Duke Snider in center or Carl Furillo in right.

Gino connected for his first career home run on Opening Day, April 16, in Philadelphia. He victimized Phillies great and future Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts with a game winner, when he took a 1-1 pitch out of the park in the twelfth inning, as the Dodgers won 7-6. It was Gino’s third hit in six at bats in the marathon.

His second home run, this time in the fourteenth inning, was also a game winner, this time against the Milwaukee Braves on May 6, giving Sandy Koufax, who was pitching in relief, his first victory of the season, and fifth of his career. It was perhaps Gino’s best game in a Dodger uniform. He had five hits, and scored three of the five Dodger runs. In the bottom of the twelfth, he had been instrumental in prolonging the game. The Braves had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the inning. In the Dodger half of the inning, with two outs, he stroked a double and eventually scored on a bad hop base hit by Furillo. In the first inning, Gino had ignited a first inning rally with a single and had scored in front of a three run home run by Furillo.
Injuries were not about to deter Gino in 1957. A twisted ankle and a pulled muscle kept him out of the lineup for just a couple of games.

Although Gino was playing well, the defending National League Champions were having their problems, falling to fourth place in early June. Gino was instrumental in stopping a four game skid on June 3, when he and Gil Hodges homered to back up Johnny Podres’ stellar pitching in a 4-0 win over Philadelphia.

By then, however, the box scores were becoming secondary to the increasing noise about a pending move of the Dodgers out of Brooklyn. Owner Walter O’Malley was very much disenchanted with Ebbets Field and the expectation was that if the Dodgers moved, most likely to California, they would be accompanied by the New York Giants who had major attendance problems at the antiquated Polo Grounds in 1956 and into 1957.
Gino was getting strong support in the All-Star balloting. Although he was the left fielder, he was on the ballot as a right fielder and second to only the Henry Aaron in the early balloting.

In late June, the Dodgers were in the thick of a five team race for the pennant, with only two games separating the contenders.

His average was up to .314 after the July 4 doubleheader, and he was named to the National League All Star team by his manager, Walter Alston.

The All-Star game was played in St. Louis. Gino came off the bench as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and struck out against Billy Pierce, injuring himself slightly when he fouled a pitch off his ankle. The American League went on to win the game by a 6-5 score.

And the Dodgers began the second half of the season in fifth place.

On July 12, the Dodgers moved into fourth place in the closely-bunched standings. A triple by Cimoli drove in two runs as the Dodgers won 3-1. Gino was sporting a .313 batting average, good for fifth in the league.

On July 20, the Dodgers were playing the Cubs. A win, coupled with a Braves loss would put the Dodgers into a first place tie. Cimoli drove in two runs with a double and scored a third as the Dodgers defeated Chicago, 7-5. But the Braves also won and the Dodgers remained in second place, one game behind.

By the end of July, the Dodgers were in third place, but it was still a log jam with four games separating the top 5 clubs. Cimoli’s average had dipped below .300, but he was still making his presence felt. July became August, and in that month the Italian group, Unico, International, named Cimoli its first player of the year. It was in August that the Milwaukee Braves created some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. While the Dodgers were playing .500 baseball against the Pirates, Giants, and Cincinnati, the Braves were streaking and had opened up a 7 game lead over Dodgers.

But the Dodgers were not about to die. It had become a three team race. However, by Mid-September, the Dodgers had been effectively eliminated. A loss to the Cardinals on September 17 put the Dodgers eight games back of the league leading Braves and five games back of the second place Cardinals.

So when it came down to the last home game on September 24, all that was left were the memories. That night, as if it mattered, the Dodgers beat the Pirates. Only 6,702 fans were in attendance. The score was 2-0. Gino scored the final Ebbets Field run. In the third inning, he reached base on an infield hit, advanced to second on an out, and scored on a single by Gil Hodges. All this as Gladys Gooding, the longtime Dodger organist was playing “Don’t Ask me Why I’m Leaving.”
Gino had had a great season. He finished tied for third in the league with 7 game winning hits. He had 10 Home Runs, 57 RBI’s and a career best .293 batting average.

His fan club, presided over by Gilda Calabrese, had begun in 1956 when he hit only .111, and would be missed by Gino. Its 200 female members just adored the handsome Gino, and he missed them when the Dodgers moved west. Eventually, Gilda made the move west as well and Gino and his wife Irene were godparents to Gilda’s daughter Michelle.

In 1958, when the Dodgers headed West, they were a different team. And they were most definitely in a different ballpark.

While waiting for their new ball park to be built in Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers had a number of choices for their temporary home, finally deciding on the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Coliseum was essentially a football stadium and as they set it up for baseball, the left field fence was only 250 feet from home plate. With their right handed lineup featuring Gino, Hodges, Campanella, Furillo, and Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers figured to do well.

And then the wheels started to come off.

In late January, Campanella skidded on an icy patch of road. The ensuing accident left him paralyzed and put young John Roseboro, a left handed hitter, behind home plate.

Center fielder Duke Snider was coming off of five consecutive years with 40 or more home runs. However, the Coliseum’s spacious right field would doubtless hurt his home run production and a knee injury threatened to cut his playing time.
There were other moments as well.

After breaking spring training camp in Vero Beach, the Dodgers headed west. They stopped off in Mesa, Arizona, to play an exhibition against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, April 11. In the first inning, Cimoli reached first base. The next batter, Duke Snider, singled and Gino scampered to third sliding in just ahead of the throw from the right fielder. Snider took second on the throw. A photographer had taken a picture and asked the third base coach, Charlie Dressen, the name of the player. Dressen said “Cimoli.”. It just so happened that the signal for the squeeze play was for the coach to shout out the player’s name. Hence, Gino thought the squeeze may be on. Once again, the photographer asked Dressen the name of the player, and this time Dressen yelled, even more loudly, “Cimoli.” On the next pitch, with Gil Hodges at the plate, Gino charged for home and was, of course, tagged out. OOPs! The Dodgers went on to lose the game in the eleventh inning when Ernie Banks hit a three-run home run.

It was going to be that kind of year.

By April 15, the hype and speculation of the spring were over and the Dodgers opened their season against the Giants in San Francisco before 23,448 fans (including a large contingent from North Beach), many of whom were been rooting for Gino Cimoli, the hometown kid. Manager Walter Alston knowing of Gino’s great record at Galileo High School, inserted Cimoli into the leadoff spot. When Gino stepped up to the plate in the first inning against Ruben Gomez, he became the first batter for the Dodgers in California. In that first plate appearance, he fouled off the first pitch and eventually struck out. In his last at-bat, he singled, but the Giants won the game 8-0.

The series in San Francisco did not bode well for the Dodgers. The Dodgers lost the series, winning only the second game 13-1. Gino was beaned in the seventh inning of the second game by Giant Pitcher Paul Giel. The scene was so horrifying that Gino’s father rushed onto the field and helped carry his son to the clubhouse. But Cimoli was determined not to miss any action, and he connected for his first West Coast home run in the third game. Unfortunately, the Dodgers lost that game 7-4.
The Dodgers first month in California was not what the fans had hoped for.
The only thing that came from Brooklyn intact was home plate. Cimoli took part in the ceremony when home plate was installed at the Coliseum.

Many of the Brooklyn stars were gone and others were injured. Gino was playing regularly on a team that lost more games than it won.

Things did not improve. By the end of May, the Dodgers were in last place, and the Newspaper Headlines they were routinely were referring to “The Bums,” their old Brooklyn nickname, and not too affectionately.

Injuries were a big factor in the Dodgers continued woes. By July 4, no less than 21 players had missed time during the season due to injury. Cimoli had missed three weeks in June due to a knee injury and wasn’t seeing much action when healthy. Fearful of a repeat of 1956, he asked to be traded.

There were a few nights when the Dodgers and Gino showed the winning touch. A 5-3 win on July 17 against Pittsburgh featured home runs by Cimoli, Hodges, and Don Zimmer but the Dodgers were still seven games below .500 and last in the eight team league.

Milwaukee was well on its way to a successful defense of their championship, but the Dodgers had a good August to climb within 3 games of .500 and advance to fourth place. A 4-2 win against Cincinnati on August 25 was their 10th in 13 outings and pushed their post all-star game record to 27-20. The latest win had been insured by Gino’s seventh home run of the campaign, leading off the eighth inning.
A rocky September sent the Dodgers skidding to a seventh place finish.

Cimoli’s numbers for 1958 were disappointing. Due in part to injury and in part to differences with team manager Walter Alston, Gino had only played in 109 of his team’s 154 games and batted .246.

After the 1958 season, moves had to be made. Cimoli was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Outfielder Wally Moon and Pitcher Phil Paine. Moon, like Cimoli, was coming off a lackluster season. Moon found a paradise in Los Angeles. The left hand hitting Moon lacked the power to reach distant right field at the Los Angeles Coliseum. So he took to hitting to the opposite field and his “Moon Shots” were a key towards the Dodgers march to the 1959 World Championship. He was named by UPI as the National League comeback player of the year.

The Cardinals quickly penciled in Gino as their center fielder for 1959. This came as somewhat of a shock to Curt Flood, who had played the position for the Cardinals in 1958. Flood played right field in 1959.

The Cardinals had also acquired Bill White from the Giants. White was expendable as he returned from the military to find that the Giants had replaced him with National League Rookie of the Year Orlando Cepeda. The Giants, always looking for pitching in those days, traded White to the Cardinals at the end of March, for Sad Sam Jones.

Cardinal first year manager Solly Hemus had more players than positions between outfield and first base. Where would that leave Gino Cimoli? The Cardinals opened their 1959 campaign by losing three in a row to the Giants. Gino was positioned in center field, and did not disappoint, getting off to a good start for the Cardinals.

He exploded out of the gate and in early May, after a stellar performance against the Cubs in a doubleheader, where he went seven for ten, his average was up to .349 with a team leading 12 doubles, as well as 3 home runs and 15 RBI’s. But the Cardinals were mired in last place with a 9-18 record.

With Gino Cimoli around, things were never quiet for long.

On June 2, the Cards were facing Harvey Haddix of the Pirates. In his prior start, Haddix had thrown twelve perfect innings against the Braves, only to lose in the thirteenth. This time around he was pitching well again, but the Cards had an opportunity when Gino singled with two outs in the third inning. Stan Musial followed with a long double, and Gino tried to score from first. He was gunned down by Bob Skinner and argued the call vehemently. He was ejected for the first and only time in his career. The Cards lost the game 3-0.

The Cards were playing the Phillies in a doubleheader on June 7. In the fifth inning of the second game, Gino stepped in against right hander Don Cardwell. Gino took exception to a brush back pitch and approached the mound. A fight ensued, but order was restored and the game continued. The teams split the doubleheader. Subsequently, Cimoli was fined $100 by National League President Warren Giles for his role in the brawl.

The Cardinals had moved into sixth place, but were still five games under .500, after splitting a doubleheader on June 21. Their hitters were getting the job done, but the pitching was inconsistent. Gino Cimoli was hitting at a .322 clip and had a league-leading 28 doubles.

The Cards were not out of it. Cimoli’s heroics continued. He had two triples and a double with five RBI’s as the Cards beat the Reds 11-8 in the second game to sweep a doubleheader on June 28. The Cards had moved to within four games of .500.
The doubles kept coming for Gino, and by July 24, he was leading the league with 35.
The Cards were poised, in late July, to make a move, but were swept in a three game series by the Reds. As the season headed towards August, the Cards were still in sixth place, 6 games below .500. They continued to falter in August and, by Labor Day were 11 games below .500 in seventh place. They led only the lowly Phillies, and were reduced to the role of spoiler in a three team pennant race between Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Cimoli finished the 1959 season with a .279 batting average, finishing fourth in the league with 40 doubles and eighth in the league with 7 triples. He also had a career high 72 RBI’s. He was the first Cardinal to hit 40 doubles in a season since Stan Musial hit 41 in 1954, and the first right hand batter to accomplish the feat since Joe Medwick hit 48 doubles in 1939.

Cimoli’s season in St. Louis was productive, but the Cardinals were undergoing changes. They were in need of pitching help. At the end of the season, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In return, the Cardinals received Ronnie Kline. Kline had been with the Bucs since 1952 and had gone 11-13 in 1959. It had been a busy off-season for Cardinal GM Bing Devine, who had made several trades. The 1960 Cardinal team only had 5 players who had started the 1958 season with the squad.

The Pirates also were seeking to turn things around. They had rarely been in contention over the prior three decades, reaching an all-time low in 1952. Since that time, they had built themselves the core of a good ball club.

Manager Danny Murtaugh was confident that his team would improve on the pior year’s fourth place finish. He had three quality starters in Vernon Law, Bob Friend, ano Harvey Haddix. His infield was solid with Dick Stuart, Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat, and Don Hoak.

The outfield was a bit of a question mark. The trio from the previous season, Bob Skinner, Bill Virdon, and Roberto Clemente, were back, but they had no serious power threat in spacious Forbes Field. The acquisition of Cimoli did not address that shortcoming. Indeed, during the off-season Kansas City had offered Roger Maris to the Bucs, but Murtaugh was reluctant to give Groat in return. Hence, the Bucs obtained Cimoli. Gino had a great arm, but so did the guy in right field. Clemente’s arm was the stuff of legend. Willie McCovey of the Giants once came to the plate with Willie Mays on first. McCovey lined a ball down the right field line for what should have been a double. Clemente fielded the ball, made a 360 degree turn and rifled a throw to third base, gunning down Mays. McCovey was credited with a single.

1960 did not start well for Cimoli.

He held out for a time, not signing until February 25, and was quick to effectively say “Play me or Trade me” on his arrival at Training Camp. Then, he injured his hand in the first inning of the spring training opener when he ran into a wall making a spectacular catch of a drive hit by Brooks Robinson, during a loss to the Orioles in Miami. He was out for two weeks, and did not see action again until March 25.
However, Gino showed enough in the remaining spring games to get the nod as the Opening Day center fielder against the Braves in Milwaukee. Murtaugh had decided to platoon Cimoli and left-hand-hitting Virdon. Braves ace lefty Warren Spahn faced Friend. The Braves won 4-3. Cimoli doubled in the ninth and came around to score the Bucs third run on a double by Hal Smith. Two days later, in the Bucs home opener, Gino went one for four with a key double that ignited a six run fifth inning. The Pirates cruised to a 13-0 win behind Vernon Law.

Cimoli and Virdon were platooned for most of the season.

The Pirates got off to a great start, winning 13 of their first 18 games and taking the league lead by two games.

It was obvious early on that the Pirates had the blend of veteran clutch performers, including Cimoli and a bench that included the likes of Rocky Nelson, Hal Smith, Dick Schofield, Hal Smith, and Bob Oldis to make a serious run at the pennant. These guys could be counted on for timely hits, and they did deliver. Not only could they hit, but guys like Cimoli and Oldis kept the team loose with their undying sense of humor and flare for pranks.

Gino was an integral part of the Bucs staying on top. On May 30, he singled, doubled, and tripled in a win over the Braves.to bring the team’s record to 26-14, good enough for a half-game lead over the Giants.

On June 15, the Bucs were in the midst of putting some distance between themselves and the Giants, winning by a score of 14-6 behind Haddix. In the second inning, the Giants had jumped into the lead as Orlando Cepeda homered to center over the outstretched glove of Gino Cimoli. Gino’s glove accompanied the ball over the fence and right fielder Roberto Clemente brought over a ladder from the right field clubhouse and fetched Cimoli’s mit. The Bucs scored 4 in the third and cruised on to their 34th victory and a three game lead over the Giants. Cimoli had two hits, including a double, and scored three runs in the win.
By month’s end the Bucs were still leading the pack and the Giants, with their patented June Swoon, had slipped to third, six and one-half games out of first, and replaced manager Bill Rigney with Tom Sheehan.

The Bucs were on a roll. By July 16, they had stretched their league lead to five games and Cimoli’s batting average was at .296. They went into the all-star break having come from behind after the fifth inning for 17 of their 50 wins. Eight of their wins were in extra innings.

They stayed hot after the All-Star game.

Cimoli, however, was seeing his playing time diminish. He was slumping at the plate, and Bill Virdon, with whom he was being platooned, caught fire.

Roberto Clemente injured himself on Friday, August 5 in a game against the Giants. After making a spectacular catch on a ball hit by Willie Mays, he went into the wall, face first. He missed six games and was replaced by Cimoli in right field.

Cimoli wasted little time emerging from a 6 for 40 slump. In Saturday’ game, he had three hits including a single that ignited a tenth inning rally, as the Bucs came from behind to win 8-7.

On August 7, after a doubleheader sweep of the Giants, the Bucs had stretch the lead to five and one-half games. In the sweep, Cimoli had tripled in each game.
The Cardinals were next on the agenda. On August 11, despite a defensive gem by Cimoli, unleashing a perfect throw to cut off man Mazeroski to cut down Kenny Boyer in the ninth inning to force extra innings, the Bucs lost the opener to the Cards 3-2 in 12 innings.

They lost the next game as well, but came back to win on Saturday, August 13. A friend of Cimoli’s had a pool, and Gino, Bob Friend, Bill Virdon, and Don Hoak gathered at the friend’s house on that Saturday night. Hoak cut his foot getting out of the pool. There was a doctor present. He stitched up Hoak. Hoak played both games of the team’s doubleheader the next day, driving in the winning run of the second game. The Pirates swept the doubleheader to split the series with the Cards.

The Pirates were back in the groove and it was contagious. On a plane trip to Cincinnati to face the Reds, Cimoli threw a pillow and before you knew it the entire team was involved. Then things calmed down and the card games and storytelling began. The team had won 14 of 18 and led the league by seven and one-half games.

Things began to tighten up in mid-September. Gino made the last out in the Pirates loss to Cincinnati on September 16, and the Braves, who had been counted out on Labor Day had pulled to within 5 ½ games of the lead, with the Cards were hanging tough as well. That same night, in Beaver Falls, PA, High School quarterback Joe Namath completed eight of nine passes for two touchdowns in a 39-7 win over Sharon High.

But it was a temporary lapse. When the Bucs swept the Cubs in a doubleheader on September 22, the Braves were eliminated and the second place Cards were running out of chances, trailing by seven and one-half games.

The Pirates were hoping to clinch the Pennant on September 25, but they lost to Milwaukee. As the Bucs returned to their locker room, they were somewhat dispirited. Cimoli looked at the somber scene and said, “Somebody dead?” He had been scoreboard watching and knew quite well that the Cardinals had been eliminated, losing to the Cubs. So Gino, having been on a pennant winner in 1956 with the Dodgers, was quick to begin the celebration.

During the celebration that took place at County Stadium in Milwaukee, Cimoli created one of the more memorable images when he took the hat of Pittsburgh Press reported Lee Biederman, doused it with champagne and wore the hat, inside out, for the bulk of the celebration, even wearing it in the shower.

Gino finished the season with a .267 batting average. However, his power numbers were off. He did not have any home runs during the season, and drove in only twenty-eight runs.

As the World Series was about to begin, Cimoli was slated to play leftfield against the New York Yankee lefthanders, and Bob Skinner would face the righties. Bill Virdon, with whom Cimoli had been platooned in Center during the season, would have centerfield to himself in the series, in large part due to the amount of ground to be covered in Yankee Stadium. However, Cimoli got more playing time than expected due to an injury sustained by Skinner in the opener. Skinner had jammed his thumb sliding during the fifth inning of the opener, a Pirates 6-4 win against the Yankees.

In Game Two, with the Bucs trailing 3-0, Cimoli led off the fourth inning with a single and came around to score the first run for Pittsburgh on a double by Hoak.

nfortunately for the Pirates, that was as close as they would come. Although they had runners on second and third with none out in the fourth, they were unable to capitalize, and the Yankees went on to win easily, 16-3. Cimoli got another single, driving in a run later in the game, but by then things were out of hand. Game 3 was another Yankee romp, this time by a margin of 10-0.

The Pirates, who made it a habit of winning the close games in this series, evened things up at two games apiece with a win game four. Cimoli went one for four. His single came in the fifth inning. He advanced to second and scored on a double by Vernon Law, tying up the game at 1-1. The Bucs went on to win 3-2.

The Pirates took the series lead, beating the Yankees 5-2 in Game five. Cimoli went hitless but did score the Bucs’ first run in the second inning. He had forced Dick Stuart at second base, advanced to third on a double by Smoky Burgess, and scored on a ground ball by Hoak to Tony Kubek at short.

Game Six was another blowout for the Bronx Bombers, cruising to a 12-0 win behind Whitey Ford. Cimoli had one single in 4 trips. After the game, Dick Groat, noting the three lopsided Yankees wins stated, “The Yankees win them big, but we bounced back after those two earlier losses. We’ll bounce back again tomorrow.”
Tomorrow was game seven in Pittsburgh.

Cimoli, who had started five straight series games, would not start Game Seven. Skinner’s thumb was better and he got the start in left field against Yankee righthander Bob Turley. The Pirates jumped to a four run lead by the end of the second inning, and the Yanks brought in Bobby Shantz to pitch in the third inning. Shantz pitched five brilliant innings, holding the Bucs scoreless, and the Yanks took a 7-4 lead into the Pirates’ eighth inning.

Cimoli was called upon to pinch hit for pitcher Elroy Face. Feeling somewhat “weak in the stomach”, he worked the count to 2-2 against Shantz, and stroked a single to right. The next batter was Virdon. He hit a hard double play grounder at the shortstop, Tony Kubek. But the ball took a bad bounce and struck Kubek in the throat. Both runners were safe. Cimoli scored the Bucs’ fifth run on a single by Groat. The Pirates went on for a five run rally, climaxed with a three run home run off the bat of catcher Hal Smith, and took a 9-7 lead to the ninth inning. In the elation that followed Smith’s home run, Abramo Cimoli, Gino’s father, threw his coat, hat and glasses into the air. All were retrieved and the game went on.

The Yankees scratched out two runs in their half of the ninth inning, and the Pirates came to bat, in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied. By that point, Cimoli, who was no longer in the game, went into the clubhouse. When the Yanks tied the game, he was so angry that he picked up the television in the clubhouse and threw it against the wall.

Bill Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth and launched the second pitch he saw over the left- field wall to give the Pirates the World Championship.

This marked the thirty-first time that the Pirates had won a game in the ninth inning in 1960.

The World Series check for Gino Cimoli and his Pirate teammates came to $8,417 per player.

During the off-season, Cimoli’s name was in various trade rumors, but he stayed with Pittsburgh.

The Bucs were tied for the league lead through the first dozen games of 1961. In early May, Cimoli suffered an injury to his rib cage when he was hit by a batted ball during pre-game warmups, and missed a few games. Injuries to Virdon and Skinner, as well as Cimoli, depleted the Bucs outfield, and May proved to be a bad month, with the Pirates dropping to fourth place, 3½ games behind the Reds, Dodgers, and Giants who were tied for the league lead.

At the June 15 trading deadline, Cimoli was dealt to the Milwaukee Braves for shortstop Johnny Logan. Logan had been a fixture on the Braves championship teams in 1957 and 1958, but had just lost his job to Roy McMillan, recently acquired from Cincinnati. The Bucs saw the versatile Logan as a backup for Groat and Hoak on the left side of the infield. They had, in Joe Christopher, a 25-year-old player (Cimoli was 31 at the time) who had distinguished himself during his apprenticeship at Salt Lake City and Columbus, batting .317 with 283 hits in 893 at bats. At the time of the trade, Cimoli had appeared in only 21 of his team’s 60 games, but was hitting .299. With the Braves, Gino joined Henry Aaron and Frank Thomas in the outfield. Against certain right-handed pitchers, Cimoli was on the bench in favor of left-hand-hitting Lee Maye.

Cimoli’s joining the Braves did not bring about a change in the Braves’ fortunes. After a slow start, Gino contributed one of his team’s five home runs in an 8-6 defeat of the Giants on June 22, but the Braves were still in fifth place, nine games behind the league leading Reds. He followed that up with 3 hits in a 13-4 trouncing of the Cubs two days later. Cimoli stayed hot with another 2 hits as the Braves beat the Cards 9-6 on June 26. But the Braves were unable to move up in the standings.

Cimoli was not able to keep up his momentum. His average had dropped from .299 at the time of the trade to .246 on July 8, and the Braves called up Mack Jones. Gino’s playing time dropped sharply, but he did have one special game during his remaining time with the Braves.

August 11 was a special night for the Braves as Warren Spahn won his 300th game, defeating the Cubs. Cimoli’s third home run of the season in the eighth inning was the deciding blow in the 2-1 win. He then saved the game with one out in the ninth with a diving catch of a live drive him by the Cub’s Jerry Kendall. Although the Braves had climbed to fourth place, the pennant race was essentially a two team affair between the Reds and the Dodgers.

Gino did make history of a sort during this stretch. In 1961, the Philadelphia Phillies were the worst team in baseball. They had lost 22 games in a row and were in danger of going 0 for August, when they faced the Braves in a doubleheader on August 20. The Braves won the first game extending the Phillies streak to 23, the longest such streak in the twentieth century. In the nightcap, Cimoli, appearing as a pinch-hitter, hit into a force play to make the last out as the Phillies defeated the Braves 7-4. The Phillies losing streak ended at a record 23 in a row.

The Braves were playing out the schedule and finished the season fifth place. For all his early heroics, Cimoli’s numbers with the Braves were disappointing. With a .197 average and weak power numbers (only 3 home runs and 10 RBI’s ), it was not surprising that he was put into the pool of players eligible to be selected by the expansion Mets and Colts. He was not taken, and was eventually sent to the Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League. In the post-season draft of Minor League Players, Cimoli was selected by the Kansas City Athletics.

The Athletics were one of the weaker teams in the American league, and were known for several years as little more than a farm team for the New York Yankees. New Manager Hank Bauer was hoping that things would change and was counting heavily on Gino Cimoli.

His Kansas City stay got off to a great start, as his three run home run was the key hit in a 4-2 win over the Twins. The A’s got off to a good start and in a doubleheader sweep against the White Sox on April 22, Cimoli had his best day ever, driving in 10 runs with a double, a triple, and two home runs. The A’s, through 13 games were a game over .500 and within ½ game of the league lead. And Cimoli’s hot bat wasn’t cooling down. On April 27, he had five hits as the A’s been the Orioles 14-5. The A’s were within one and one-half games of the league lead.

The hits kept coming and coming. Two doubles and a triple led the A’s over the Tigers on May 2, but the team’s record was staying around .500. As May came to a close, Cimoli was fourth in the league in RBI’s, with 31, more than he had hit in either of the previous two seasons.

As the season wore on, the A’s fell further back and assumed their customary place in the second division.

One of the more frustrating games was on August 19. Cimoli was part of a three run outburst when he, Wayne Causey, and Billy Bryan started the seventh inning by hitting consecutive home runs against the Yankees. It was all for naught, as the Yankees were cruising to a 21-7 win.

Gino had some timely hits and was on his way to leading the league in triples. The hopes of April encountered the reality of September, and the A’s trailed the league leading Yanks by eighteen and one-half games, leading only the lowly Washington Senators in the standings on Labor Day.

Cimoli’s numbers for the year were his best since 1959. As the A’s everyday right fielder, he had career highs in games played and at-bats, and finished with a .275 batting average. His career best 15 triples were good enough to lead the league. His 10 home runs matched his 1957 output with Brooklyn and his 71 RBI’s were one shy of his career best of 72 in 1959.

Off his showing in 1962, Cimoli was looking forward to 1963. The A’s once again got off to a good start. In the very early going, through 6 games, the A’s were tied for first and Cimoli was leading the league in hitting. Would this continue? For a while, it did. As April drew to a close, the A’s lead the league by one-half game.

Cimoli at times felt himself to be “The Forest Gump of Baseball,” always close to famous events. The Mazeroski home run was big, but an even bigger blast came off the bat of Mickey Mantle on the evening of May 22, 1963. Gino’s Kansas City A’s were playing the Yankees and the game went into extra innings. Mantle led off the eleventh by hitting “the hardest ball I ever hit” off the façade high above right field at Yankee Stadium. Gino was playing in leftfield that game. The next day, Gino, true to form, trying to help pitcher Bill Fischer, found a long ladder and propped it up in right field.

Another “Forrest Gump” moment came that year, interestingly enough, after a round of golf. One of this golf partners was Ken “Hawk” Harrelson. One day, as Harrelson tells the story, he sustained a blister on the links after playing 36 holes with a foursome that included Cimoli. That night, Harrelson was in the lineup facing Whitey Ford of the Yanks. He used one of his golf gloves to relieve the pain, and deposited a Ford pitch over the fence to win the game. To this day, Harrelson takes credit for the use of batting mloves by baseball players.
But then reality set in and by mid-July, the 1963 A’s, this year being managed by Ed Lopat, were in ninth Place. They were able to get as high as eighth place as the season came to a close. Gino’s numbers for 1963 were again impressive. He was fourth in the league with 11 triples, and hit .263 for the season.

Cimoli had two of his most productive seasons playing for Kansas City. His 26 triples over two years topped all major leagues for the 1962-63 time frame.

However, 1964 started out poorly for the A’s. The A’s were looking at younger talent, and Gino, after playing regularly for two years, found himself being used sparingly, as the A’s were giving a good look at Tom Reynolds. Appearing in only his fourth game of the season on May 2, he injured his left tendon running to first base. In all, he only appeared in eight games before being released on May 14. At age 34, Gino was nearing the end of his major league career.

He played with the Orioles after being released by Kansas City, but batted only .138, playing in parts of 38 games and garnering 8 hits in 58 at bats. In late July, the Orioles assigned Cimoli to their Rochester Triple A farm club. He played well for Rochester, hitting .315 in 45 games with 4 home runs and 23 RBI’s.

His career ended in 1965. He signed on for a brief stint with the Angels, appearing in only four games, going hitless five at-bats. He was cut from the squad on May 9, when the Angels pared the roster to 25 players. He finished up with Spokane in the Pacific Coast League, where the manager was his old Dodger teammate Duke Snider. He got into 33 games but was only hitting .235 when Spokane released him on June 25.

Over the course of his major-league career, Cimoli batted .265 with 44 home runs. Few, however, could match his achievements in the realm of the three-base hit. He had 48 triples in the majors and, including his minor league numbers, he had 98 triples as a professional.

Towards the end of his career, Cimoli had worked part-time for UPS. At the end of his playing days, he worked full-time for UPS, delivering to his native North Beach section of San Francisco. In 1989, he retired and was honored for completing his years at UPS without an accident. He was known as the “Iron Man” of UPS.

After he retired from baseball, Cimoli was reunited with Lorraine Vigli. Lorraine and Gino had gone to school together at Galileo but went their separate ways. In 1973, they ran into each other at LaRocca’s corner. Lorraine worked for a podiatrist at the time, and the podiatrist’s office was on Gino’s UPS route in the Marina. Before long, they began dating, and Gino and Lorraine were together for the next 38 years.
Italian Heritage was very much on display on April 13, 1976. The Giants staged Italian-American Heritage Day at Candlestick Park. They honored Joe DiMaggio. Gino, Babe Pinelli, and Dolph Camilli were on the field during the ceremonies.

His retirement days were full. On occasion, he would be reunited with old teammates, such as when the Pirates reassembled the 1960 Championship team on Saturday, July 6, 1985, and when the Giants reenacted the 1958 opening pitch at the beginning of their fortieth season in San Francisco on April 1, 1997. On April 15, 2008, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the first west coast game.

He appeared at card signing events and at Charity Golf Tournaments, including a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis in 1995.

He was a fixture in San Francisco.

In February, 1987, Gino was just being Gino. Giants’ owner Bob Lurie was dining at Ristorante Marcello with his wife and the police chief. Disguised as a waiter and wearing an Oakland A’s cap, Gino steps up to the table and tells Lurie, “Say, I hear you are looking for a coach!” Vintage Cimoli.

On the afternoon of October 17, 1989, Cimoli and his friend Big Ed went to Epplers for coffee after Gino completed his shift at UPS. Then the rumbling began, as San Francisco was experiencing one of its more turbulent earthquakes. Gino and Ed ran out into the street and in short order, the UPS truck became an ambulance. Gino and Ed checked the houses along Scott Street. Cimoli entered one of the homes and saved a woman who had been trapped on the third floor. He helped out other victims as well, traveling throughout the Marina area.

He served a term as President of the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, and in his later years could always be found there at the card table. With his trademark unlit cigar dangling from his mouth he was always outspoken and friendly with everyone. One of his favorite sayings was, “If I were playing today, I would need a Brinks truck!”

On at least ten occasions, he emceed at the annual Dante Benedetti Dinner, a fundraiser for the Friends of Marino Pieretti Charitable Organization. Benedetti had served as the baseball coach at USF for 17 years, and was known for his charitable endeavors teaching baseball and life’s skills to the children of the North Beach area for forty years.

Gino and Lorraine travelled extensively, visiting Italy three times, as well as Mexico and the Panama Canal.

Gino’s daughters presented him with three grandchildren . Shortly before his death, he became a great-grandfather.

Gino Cimoli died on February 12, 2011 at the age of 81. His number did not adorn the sleeves of any of the teams for which he had played.

Not long thereafter, Duke Snider also passed away. Even on heaven’s baseball team, it would seem, Gino Cimoli would be struggling for playing time, or going in as a late-inning replacement. This may have prompted Gino to say, “Play me or trade me” one last time.
Bibliography:
Baldassaro, Lawrence, Beyond DiMaggio: Italian-Americans in Baseball, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 2011.
Bavasi,Buzzie. Off the Record, Chicago, Contemporary Books, 1987
Brosnan, Jim.. The Long Season, New York, Harper 1960
Cushing, Rick, 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates: Day by Day, a Special Season, an Extraordinary World Series, 2010, Dorrance Publishing Company
Daly, Steve. Dem Little Bums: The Nashua Dodgers, Concord, NH, Plaidswede Publishing Co., 2003
Endsley, Brian M.. Bums No More The 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers. Jefferson, NC, McFarland and Company, 2009
Erskine, Carl. Tales from the Dodger Dugout, Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing, Inc. 2000
Erskine, Carl. Tales from the Dugout: Extra Innings, Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing, Inc. 2004
Freedman, Lew, Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game ever Lost, Jefferson, NC, McFarland and Company, 2009
Goldblatt, Andrew. The Giants and the Dodgers: four cities, two teams, one rivalry, Jefferson, NC, McFarland and Company, 2003
Kahn, Roger, The Era: 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World, New York, Ticknor and Fields, 1993
Kerrane, Kevin, Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting, New York, Beaufort Books, 1984
Lanctot, Neil, Campy, The Two Lives of Roy Campanella, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2011
Maraniss, David, Clemente, The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2006
Marzano, Rudy, The Last Years of the Brooklyn Dodgers: A History: 1950-1957, Jefferson, NC, McFarland and Company, 2008
Morales, Bob. Farewell to the Last Golden Era: The Yankees, the Pirates, and the 1960 Baseball Season, Jefferson, NC, McFarland and Company, 2011
Murphy, Robert E. After Many A Summer: The Passing of the Giants and Dodger and a Golden Age in New York Baseball, New York, Union Square Press, 2009
Nordell, John R. Brooklyn Dodgers: The Last Great Pennant Drive, 1957, Eynon, PA, Tribute Books, 2007
Reisler, Jim, The Best Game Ever: Pirates vs. Yankees, October 13, 1960, New York, Carroll and Graf, 2007
Shapiro, Michael, . Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball form Itself, New York, Holt, 2009
Snider, Duke, The Duke of Flatbush, New York, Zebra Books: Kensington Publishing Company, 1988
Newspapers and Magazines:
Broeg, Bob, St. Louis Post Dispatch, March 30, 1959
Bruno, Otto, Blog under name of The Old Ball Game on July 21, 2010.
Cloud, Barbara. “They’re Pennant Fever Veterans – Irene Cimoli used to Jitters”, Pittsburgh Press, August 16, 1960.
Cushing, Rick, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, August 15, 2010, B7
Daley, Arthur, New York Times, Sports of the Times, Campy was Right September 1, 1957
Drebinger, John, “Dodgers’ Travels Prove Rewarding”, New York Times, June 11, 1957
Fitzgerald, Tom. “Gino Cimoli Can Still Deliver the Goods”, San Francisco Chronicle May 7, 1990
Gaven, Michael, “Brooklyn’s Best Left Fielder since Medwick”, Baseball Digest, September, 1957.
Grady, Sandy, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, June 8, 1959
Jeansome, John, “Black and White and Dodger Blue”, Newsday, May 5, 2000. Story about Nashua Dodgers – 1946-1949.
Jones, Chris. “All Aboard for the Showdown”, National Post, October 21, 2000
Judge, Walter. “L. A. Centerfield job for Cimoli” San Francisco Examiner, February 10, 1958
Kahn, Herb, “And then Came Friday”, San Francisco Chronicle, February 20, 1987
Koppett, Leonard, “Pasta e Fagioli and Baseball”, New York Times, April 12, 1976.
Moody, John. “Cross Country: When Mantle and Maris were slayed by Maz, The Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2010 page A.11.
McDonald, Jack. “Both Barrels” San Francisco Call Bulletin, January 7, 1958
Readling, Mike. Martinez May Get Work at Second, St. Petersburg Times, May 23, 2001
Rosenbloom, Steve. “Ken Harrelson: . . . How he ‘Invented batting gloves’”, Chicago Tribune, June 28, 2006.
Russo, Neal, “Cimoli first tried baseball to avoid gym workouts, St. Louis Post Dispatch April 28, 1959
Stevens, Bob. “Cimoli Blessed that He’s a Cardinal, San Francisco Chronicle, December 27, 1958
Stockman, Jay. “Usher Shared Maz’s Spotlight, Houston Chronicle, October 9, 1988
Tobener, David Blog under name of GoldenGateGiants on February 15, 2011.
The story of Cimoli trashing the television set came from an obituary for Willard G. Bellows that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 10, 1993.
Sports Illustrated, March 31, 1958, Story about Campanella in Japan.
Those interviewed for this biography included:
Joe Christopher
Dick Groat
Bob Tobener
Lorraine Vigli

Websites with Information
http://www.Baseball-Almanac.com
http://www.baseball-reference.com
http://www.baseball-fever.com
http://www.baseballlibrary.com
http://www.retrosheet.org

The Buck Etchison Story

They were called “replacement players,” that group of men who played during the Second World War while others were in the military. Often career minor leaguers, they got the call to the big leagues, and most were sent packing once the major leaguers returned from the service.

Standing at 6-feet-1, the 190-pound Buck Etchison was a first baseman who made his major-league debut on September 22, 1943, after an apprenticeship that lasted five years, and took him through six cities.

After a productive 1943 season with the Hartford (Connecticut) Senators of the Class A Eastern League, Etchison joined the Boston Braves. His first major-league at-bat came on September 22, 1943, at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field in front of 1,404 onlookers. It was the top of the eighth inning, and the Braves, behind 3-2, had two runners on with none out. Etchison was called upon by manager Casey Stengel to pinch-hit for Connie Ryan. He took the first two pitches for balls. On the next pitch, he connected. His two-run, opposite-field double off Hank Gornicki went down the left-field line towards the foul pole. The Braves went ahead, 4-3. Etchison scored on a single by pitcher Nate Andrews as the Braves won, 5-3. In a doubleheader against the Cubs on October 3, the last day of the season, Etchison doubled in each game and went 3-for-6 as the teams split the twin bill. In his 10 games with the Braves, he batted .316 and was looking forward to 1944.

Clarence Hampton “Buck” Etchison was born on January 27, 1915, in Baltimore, and was raised in nearby Howard County. His parents were Clarence and Florence Johnston Etchison. His sister Daisy Irene came along three years later. It was the second marriage for Florence; she had two children from her prior marriage. Clarence Sr. was an engineer for the B&O Railroad and in 1921, when the future ballplayer was 6 years old, he died when his train struck a car that had become dislodged from oncoming train and was stranded in his path. In the fog, Clarence did not see the impediment until it was too late to avert disaster. His train derailed and his locomotive fell to a ditch below.

Clarence’s mother married James Hobbs in 1924, and the couple had two children, Jane and June. In 1932 Clarence graduated from West Friendship High School, and he spent several years working the family farm and playing on semipro teams in western Maryland.

Etchison’s first stop in Organized Baseball was at Welsh (West Virginia) in the Class-D Mountain State League in 1939. He batted .292, and clubbed two homers in a game four times. Back at Welch the next season, he hit.363, with 31 doubles, 12 triples, and 24 homers. a doubleheader against Bluefield, he hit three homers, a single, and a double. His slugging percentage was a gaudy .644, second-best in the league. In his league’s all-star game against an all-star team from the Virginia League, he went 4-for-5.

In 1941 Etchison began the season with the Reading Brooks, the Dodgers affiliate in the Class-B Interstate League but after 12 games was sent to Grand Rapids of the Class-C Michigan State League. There he put together another good season, batting .325 with 17 homers and a league-leading 35 doubles.

Once the United States entered World War II, Etchison spent his off-seasons working at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard at Sparrows Point, Maryland, outside Baltimore.

Still in the Dodgers’ organization, Etchison started the 1942 season with the Dayton Ducks of the Class-C Middle Atlantic League, where he batted .246 in 57 games. After a July 5 doubleheader he left the team and returned home to Maryland. He said he was suffering from dental problems. Other sources said he and his manager, Ducky Holmes, had an altercation, with the manager accusing the player of loafing and inviting him to quit, which Etchison did. Less than two weeks later, he signed with Elmira in the Class-A Eastern League. The season had little in the way of highlights, but on July 18, in his third game with Elmira, he went 4-for-5 with a double and a home run, as Elmira defeated Hartford 9-1.

The Eastern League was loaded with talent that year and the class of the league was Wilkes-Barre pitcher Allie Reynolds. On September 1 against Elmira, Reynolds, with 18 wins, including 11 shutouts, took a no-hitter into the 11th inning of a scoreless game. With two outs in the top of the 11th, and a runner on second, Etchison singled to break up the no-hitter and drive in the winning run. In 61 games with Elmira, he batted .239.

In March 1943 Etchison was traded to the Hartford Senators, the Eastern League affiliate of the Boston Braves. He went 11-for-23 in his team’s first seven games, “one of the hottest batting streaks the Eastern League has ever seen,” according to the Hartford Courant. On May 6 Etchison went 3-for-6 at Springfield and drove in the winning run as Hartford won 6-5 in 11 innings. The next day he was 3-for-3 with a double in a 6-3 win. In a doubleheader sweep of Springfield at Hartford on May 9, Etchison’s first home run of the season sent the opener into overtime, and his 12th-inning triple set up the win in the nightcap. Hartford’s record stood at 6-1.

Etchison’s bat remained hot, and on May 22 his average was over .400. However, the team was not faring well and an eight-game losing streak from May 20 through May 26 put their record below .500. To make matters worse, Hartford found itself on the short end of the decision when the league president took away four wins after the Springfield team raised a protest about the use of an ineligible player. As a result, the team’s record was changed from 26-29 to 22-29 on June 30. They crept above .500 in late July, but by that point Scranton had a firm lock on first place.

Etchison continued his slugging ways. On May 31, he doubled and tripled in a 10-0 win over Springfield, leading Bill Lee of the Courant to exclaim, “Buck hit a couple at the (Bulkeley) Stadium Monday that were something to see. It’s been a long time since Hartford has had a hitter who can tee off on a ball the way Etchison does. And the ball he whacks against the fences is a lot deader than the one in use up to last year.”

During the season, a “dimout” law was put in place that required games to end at 9:30 P.M. regardless of the circumstance, as cities along the Eastern seaboard went dark for fear of German spies close to shore. On June 17, with the Senators playing Elmira Pioneers in Hartford, the law was invoked for the first time in the Eastern League. Etchison hit his second homer of the season in the game and Hartford had come from behind to tie the game 9-9 in the bottom of the eighth. The game was stopped in the top of the ninth after Elmira had scored three runs. The score reverted to the result through eight innings, and the game was declared a tie. Over the course of the season, Hartford had to replay four “dimout” games that wound up tied. Two other games were suspended.

The first of the suspended “dimout” games began on July 19. Hartford was leading Springfield 16-7 in the eighth inning, and Etchison had extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a pair of hits when the game was suspended. When the game was resumed on August 19, there was no further scoring, and the final tally was 16-7. After a short break, the teams played the regularly scheduled game and after a game that was “full of loose pitching, weird fielding, bad base running, and heavy hitting,” the dimout law once again halted play, this time with the teams tied 8-8 after nine innings. The game was replayed on September 4.

Etchison’s first four-hit game as a Senator came on June 21, and each of those hits went for extra bases. His triple and three doubles in five at-bats, led Hartford to a 17-4 romp over Albany. The following day, he went 3-for-3 against the Lawmakers.

On August 15, Etchison, who had not missed a game all season, was injured in a collision at first base in the second game of a doubleheader against Wilkes-Barre. He took a hit to his nose and was expected to be out indefinitely. He returned on August 19. Five days later, he had his first grand slam of the season. It was an inside-the-park job as Hartford defeated Scranton 8-2 in the second game of a doubleheader. The next day, he made it homers in consecutive games as he powered Hartford to a 12-2 win over Scranton.

On September 1, Etchison was sidelined for the second time within a month when he was injured in a collision at home plate during the first game of a doubleheader. He lost consciousness, and missed the second game of the twinbill against Utica. He returned to action the next day.

September 11 was just another day at the office for Buck. Hartford played a doubleheader at Binghamton and Etchison swatted a double and two triples as the teams split the twinbill. Buck even did a bit of pitching, retiring the three batters he faced in the last inning of the opener.

He finished the season batting .294 with 26 doubles, 15 triples, 8 home runs, 91 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. He led the league in runs scored. After the season, he was chosen for the league’s all-star team.

The Hartford team made a steady rise through the standings late in the season, fashioning an eleven game winning streak at the beginning of September, and finished the season in third place, qualifying for the postseason playoffs. Scranton won the best-of-five semifinal series in four games. Once Hartford was eliminated in the playoffs, Etchison was called up to the Braves. He started four of the 10 games in which he played.

He made the squad in spring training in 1944 and spent the entire season with the Braves, taking over at first base for Kerby Farrell. His first of eight homers came on June 18 against the Frank Seward of the Giants in a 9-2 loss. On July 31 he was the only one of Bob Coleman’s Braves to solve Fritz Ostermueller, getting the Braves’ only two hits in a 9-2 loss to the Pirates. There were few bright spots in the season for the Braves, but one of the team’s better performances came on August 30 against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. The Braves’ knuckleballer Jim Tobin, a knuckleballer, had already pitched two no-hitters in 1944, and had taken a bid for a third into the sixth inning on July 5. In his final August effort, he retired the first 16 Giants batters and the score stood at 1-1 as the Braves came to bat in the seventh inning. A two-run-homer by Etchison gave the Braves a 3-1 lead and they went on to win 4-2 in a game that took only 87 minutes to complete as 953 fans looked on. But the Braves were in sixth place by this point, 43 games out of first.

On September 3, in a game against the Phillies in Philadelphia, Etchison crashed into the stands chasing a foul ball. He injured both knees and suffered a bruised shoulder and a back injury that kept him on the sidelines until September 14. He missed 14 of the Braves’ last 24 games of the season. The back problems limited his mobility and range at first base and helped end his major-league career. He played his last major-league game in the first game of a doubleheader on the final day of the season, October 1, driving in a run with a fly ball as the Braves dropped a 4-3 decision to the Cubs at Braves Field. For the season, Etchison batted .214 with 33 RBIs, playing in 109 games for the sixth-place (65-89) Braves.

After the season the Braves sent Etchison to Milwaukee of the American Association. In May 1945 he was sent to Nashville of the Class-A1 Southern Association. He had batted .281 in 12 games with the Brewers. In 104 games with the Cubs affiliate in Nashville, he slugged 15 homers, including one stretch against Atlanta when he slammed six homers in four games to set a league record. That outburst came when he first joined Nashville. In that five-game set against Atlanta, he went hitless in the first game and then went on a tear in which he slammed those six homers. He homered in the second game. In the third game, he hammered two three-run homers in the same inning, and had four hits overall, as Nashville exploded for a 20-1 win over Atlanta. In the fourth game, he homered and tripled, and then had a pair of homers in the final game of the series. In addition to the homer mark for a four-game stretch, he set a league record with 15 RBIs during the five-game series. He did cool down thereafter. Etchison’s attack on the Southern Association record book was dealt a blow when he fractured a finger on June 17 and was sidelined for two weeks. For the season, he batted .258 with 73 RBIs. His 15 homers tied him for second-best in the league.

The following season Etchison was assigned to Macon in the Class-A South Atlantic League, but did not play for Macon or anyone else until June 9, when he joined York in the Class-B Interstate League. After being released by York on August 1, he moved on to Sunbury in the same league. With York, he batted .325 in 54 games with 11 homers. After joining Sunbury, he exacted a bit of revenge on his former team. On August 29 he homered in the sixth inning and stole home in the eighth as Sunbury defeated York, 2-1. For Sunbury, he batted .311 in 45 games with seven homers. For the season, he batted .318 with 18 home runs, but by this point it was evident that he would not be returning to the majors.

At the age of 32 in 1947, Etchison was player-manager of the Mahanoy City (Pennsylvania) Bluebirds of the Class-D North Atlantic League. That year he set a league record with 163 RBIs to go along with 25 homers and a .354 batting average. The following season, he batted .363 for Mahanoy City. In his two years managing at Mahanoy City, his teams went 67-65 and 79-54, finishing fourth each season.

Etchison was quite a character and made an impression on his players including a young outfielder from Detroit named Bobby (not to be confused with Billy) Hoeft. Hoeft was in his first year of professional ball in 1948, and Etchison was his first manager. Hoeft remembered an incident with “this skinny farmer from Endicott, Maryland, who used to spit his Red Man chewing tobacco all over the umpires, who hated the man! Well, anyway on a hot July Sunday game at home, I managed to get picked off second, in a close game. As I crawled off of the field there stood Buck waiting for me on the top step. I was ready for the undertaker! My first words were, ‘I thought…’ Those two words were all I got out as he bellowed the following sentence at me, ‘Don’t ever think again “Huffy” (his nickname for me) or you’ll ruin my baseball team.’!! Words I’ll take to my grave.”

Hoeft’s memoir, written in 2002, gives the essence of Buck. Etchison “perpetually had his Mr. Redman plugged into his jaw and shame on you if you got too close to him in a heated exchange. Big Bad Buck was loved/adored by this tough minded mining town [Mahanoy].” Buck had a way of speaking with his players after a poorly played game. He didn’t hold back. He would wait until the players were on the team bus, and tell the players to close the windows tightly. And then, as Hoeft noted, “That bus rocked and rolled and steamed until Buck Etchison was satisfied that we would never lose another ball game.”

In 1949 Etchison moved on to Griffin, Georgia, in the Georgia-Alabama League, and was with them for 44 games. He was released on July 17 after the team went into a tailspin, losing 12 games in a row. He signed on with Federalsburg in the Eastern Shore League. As his daughter Nancy remembered, in Federalsburg, every time it rained the field would flood. The next four seasons Etchison worked in the Philadelphia A’s organization. In 1950 the player-manager was at Youngstown, Ohio, in the Class-C Mid-Atlantic League, batting .318. The following season he was still in Class C, this time with Rome (New York) in the Canadian-American League. His batting average slipped to .275 and his Colonels finished at a disappointing 46-71.

The first game of a doubleheader on July 1 provided a couple of interesting highlights in an otherwise forgettable campaign. Rome won, 3-0, and Etchison went 3-for-3, the first perfect day at the plate of the season for any member of his squad. A local store, Home Dairy, had a promotion that awarded him free meals for the rest of the season for his accomplishment. He came to the plate only three times because he was ejected in the fifth inning for questioning the decisions of the home-plate umpire.

In 1952 Etchison moved up one step in the A’s system, to Harrisburg of the Class-B Interstate League. It was an interesting and unusual season. Etchison batted .260 in 103 games but what happened on June 21 set the season apart. The team was faring poorly at the gate and would eventually be taken over by the league. The season’s attendance would be only 30,052 for 70 home games.

To spur interest and gain some publicity (although team officials denied it was a publicity stunt), the team signed Eleanor Engle, a stenographer at IBM who had played some softball, to play shortstop. Etchison and the baseball establishment did not take kindly to the signing.
Engle warmed up with the team and briefly sat on the bench before the game. Once the game started, she was exiled to the press box. The stunt attracted 435 onlookers. Engel did not accompany the team on the road trip that commenced the next day. In newspapers across the country, Etchison was quoted as saying, “I won’t have a girl playing for me. This is a no-woman’s land and, believe me, I mean it!” In the aftermath of this, National Association Commissioner George Trautman banned female participation in the minor leagues.

On the road, Etchison got back to one of his favorite pastimes – hitting baseballs over fences. In a doubleheader on June 29, he slammed two homers, including the game-winner, in the opener and one in the nightcap as Harrisburg split with Wilmington. On August 8, citing financial reasons, Harrisburg’s president and treasurer resigned and Etchison was released and replaced by Woody Wheaton. At the end of the season, the Harrisburg team, and the entire league, folded. Minor-league baseball did not return to the Pennsylvania state capital until 1987.
Etchison moved on to Fayetteville in the Class-B Carolina League in 1953. He was the first of three managers of a team that finished 44-95. At the time of his release, on May 20, the team was in eighth place, 9½ games out of first. In his time with the club, Etchison played in 23 games, batting .305. He hung up his spikes after the 1953 season, having posted a .304 batting average with 172 homers in 14 minor-league seasons.

In 1977 Etchison was nominated for the Hall of Fame of the Oldtimers Baseball Association of Maryland.

Etchison had a large family. He met Nancy Lord when they lived near each other in Ellicott City, and they married in in 1934. They had nine children between 1935 and 1953, and had 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Etchison returned to farming, operating the family farm in Ellicott City after his playing days. He sold the farm in 1963 and moved to a home near Cambridge, Maryland. He died of a heart attack at the age of 64 on January 24, 1980. Nancy died on June 21, 2001.

Sources
“Colonels Sign Buck Etchison as Manager,” Rome (New York) Daily Sentinel, February 28, 1951, 12.
Dawson, James P., “Braves Overcome Giants 4-2, On Tobin’s Hurling and Two Homers: Etchison and Weitelman Tally Three Runs on Four-Baggers to help ‘Soft’ Ball Star,” New York Times, August 31, 1944, 12.
Hoeft, Bobby, When Baseball was Fun: A Baseball Memoir (Xlibris, 2002).
Levy, Sam, “Slugger Buck Etchison, Brewers’ New First Baseman, Known as Minor Star,” Milwaukee Journal, October 22, 1944, 15.
Owens, Tom, “Bobby Hoeft Joins Tigers Family,” in his blog, “Baseball by the Letters,” December 28, 2011.
Preston, J.G., “On Eleanor Engle, Who was Not Allowed to Play Shortstop for the Harrisburg Senators,” in his blog, “The J.G. Preston Experience,” November 21, 2009.
Clarence H. Etchison obituary. Baltimore Sun, January 27, 1980, A14.
Newspapers:
Boston Globe
Boston Herald
York (Pennsylvania) Gazette and Daily
Hartford Courant
Milwaukee Journal
Hagerstown (Maryland) Morning Herald
New York Times
The Sporting News

Baseball-Reference.com
FultonHistory.com
GenealogyBank.com
Google News Archive
NewspaperArchive.com
Newspapers.com

Interview with Nancy Etchison Newcomer, eldest daughter of Buck Etchison, April 29, 2014.

The Jim Tyack Story

Each year, Bakersfield, California honors its star high-school athletes with the Jim Tyack Award. Although the grandparents of most of the recent recipients were born long after Tyack excelled in baseball, football, basketball, and track at Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield Junior College, the award is a lasting testament to the legendary records and achievement by the former Philadelphia Athletics outfielder and his lasting impact on the community.

In the second half of the 19th century, Jim Tyack I, a tin miner from Cornwall in England, migrated to Virginia City, Nevada during that region’s silver rush. At about the same time, William H. Smith, a member of Troop D, Third Regiment was fighting in the Indian Wars. During that time, he was on the train that escorted Geronimo after he was captured. Tyack’s son, also named Jim, was born in Virginia City and migrated to Butte, Montana’s copper mines during the 1890’s. There, he met and married Smith’s daughter Addie, who had been born in Missoula, Montana. A child Isabelle was born to them in 1899 followed by a son Frederick in 1904. Tragedy struck the family in 1908. A neighbor, to ward off rats, had laced cookies with arsenic. Young Frederick and two of his friends, not knowing that the cookies were poisoned, ate them, and he eventually died (the other two boys survived). Three years later, Jim Tyack III was born in Florence, Montana on January 9, 1911. Some sources list his year of birth as 1913. Jim shaved a couple of years off his age when he was in the minor leagues.

When he was a youngster, Jim’s family made its way west to California. His dad had worked in housing construction in Montana, and as the copper mines became less profitable, the housing market suffered. Jim’s mom had family in California and to California the family went in 1919. His father made a living homesteading property in the community of Weed Patch, not far from Bakersfield, and grew vegetables on a ranch.

At Bakersfield High School (it was known as Kern County Union High School in those days), Jim was coached in football and baseball by Dwight M. “Goldie” Griffith. He didn’t play football until his junior year of high school because his mom Addie feared injury. Coach Griffith paid a visit to the family homestead in Weed Patch and persuaded Addie that football would make a better man out of Jim. Coach Griffith’s recruitment visit proved successful and in 1927 the Kern County Drillers, with Tyack leading the way, won the California state championship, soundly defeating Stockton, 28-0, for the title. Tyack also lettered in basketball and track while in high school. In his high school yearbook, it was noted that, as a fullback, he “made many a defense shudder with his fast, powerful line smashes.”

After completing high school, he enrolled at Fresno State Teachers College and played football there during the fall of 1929. The team played against UCLA that season and was overmatched, losing 56-6. Tyack accounted for all of his team’s points with a second-quarter touchdown.

He transferred to Bakersfield Junior College in the fall of 1930, where he excelled in track for the Bakersfield Junior College Renegades, earning the nickname “Jack Rabbit” Jim Tyack. In 1931, he set school records of 9.6 seconds and 21.5 seconds in the 100 and 220 yard dashes. The records stood for 19 and 30 years, respectively. In 1932, it was customary for him to win both dashes, as well as the long jump in many of his team’s meets. On April 2, 1932, he set a track record at UCLA, running the 100-yard dash in 9.7 seconds. Coach “Spud” Harder used his “one-man team” in many events during the season, and Tyack won the javelin throw in a meet on April 9, 1932.

On the eve of the West Coast relays, a writer in the Bakersfield Californian commented that “the Bakersfield coach has entered his chief star, Jim Tyack, in the 100-yard-dash, broad jump, shot put, javelin throw, 880 relay, and as a possible alternate in one of the 440 yard laps of the mile relay. While Tyack is doing none of these things, he will probably be watching the carnival and eating hot dogs and ice cream.”

During the summer of 1932 he played semipro baseball for the Cardiff and Peacock club in the Bakersfield Night League, leading his team in batting with a .352 average, as they finished second in the league with a 13-5 record. No sooner had he finished the season in the Night League, than he joined Lamont of the Recreation Park League.

On February 7, 1933, Tyack was signed by the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He was unable to survive the cut at the end of spring training. The following season, he went to spring training with the Seattle Indians of the PCL, but once again did not make the squad.

He wound up playing semipro softball in California, and caught the eye of a St. Louis Cardinals scout. The Cardinals signed him in 1936 and he got his first opportunity to play in Organized Baseball. After spending some time with Springfield, Illinois in the Class C Western Association , where he did not play, he was sent to Asheville (North Carolina) in the Class B Piedmont League, where he homered in his first at-bat on May 7, part of a 2-for-4,four-RBI day in a 10-2 win over Rocky Mount. He batted .296 for the season. However, his play in the field was erratic, and he led the league’s outfielders with 22 errors. The poor fielder tag was one that he would never lose, regardless of how hard he tried, and how many sparkling plays he made.

Tyack and his high school sweetheart Margaret Goodrich were married in Tijuana, Mexico in January, 1933, although some records list the date of their marriage as September 11, 1936 when a second ceremony was performed in Bakersfield. They had three sons. Their first son James IV was born on January 30, 1939. A year later, when Jim was playing in Little Rock, William Robert Tyack came along, and Thomas Albert Tyack was born in 1949, by which time Jim was no longer in baseball. Their sons would present them with eight grandchildren.

Margaret accompanied Jim to Asheville and it was their first experience in the South and with Southern ways. Their son Jim remembers a story about a time when Margaret was planning to take the bus to the ballpark. She arrived very late and joined the other wives. When asked what caused her to be late, she mentioned that she had allowed a Negro woman with a couple of children on the bus ahead of her. The bus driver, aghast that she would show such courtesy, slammed the door in Margaret’s face and she had to wait for the next bus.

In 1937, Tyack started the season with Decatur\(Illinois) in the Class B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League, where he batted .264 in 26 games. But he found himself back with Asheville by early June, batting .246 over the balance of the season. One of his better efforts came on June 9, when he went 3-for-5, with a game-winning home run as Ashville defeated Richmond, 6-5.

In 1938, Tyack was with Bellingham (Washington) in the Class B Western International League. The team finished second in the league and defeated Yakima in the postseason playoffs for the league championship. He batted .314 with 32 doubles, 14 triples, and 15 homers, all career highs to that point, and led the league in triples, homers, and total bases. He also, unfortunately, led the league’s outfielders in errors with 14. He was acquired by the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League and began the season with them in 1939.

Early on, manager Red Killefer said, “The boy really can hit, and he’s fast as lightning. We’ve got a flock of outfielders, but I’m going to give him a thorough trial.” Tyack did well during spring training, a highlight coming when he connected for a single and double in a 7-4 win over the Chicago White Sox in the first game played at Hollywood’s Gilmore Stadium. (Actually, Gilmore Stadium was a temporary venue for the team, its main purpose being to host football games and car races. The team moved into its permanent home, Gilmore Field, in May.)

On the eve of the season, Tyack exclaimed to Braven Dyer of the Los Angeles Times that “The toughest thing in baseball is to get a decent break. I’ve been waiting all my life for this chance and you can bet I’ll give ‘em all I got from the first gun.”

He showed off his speed on Opening Day, singling and scoring from first base on a double in the fifth inning as the Stars overcame a four-run deficit and defeated the Angels, 10-9.

In his team’s second game of the season against the Los Angeles Angels on April 2, he went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs in a 10-6 Stars’ win in the first game of the doubleheader.

In two games, he had acquired as many nicknames. Teammates were calling him Kayak Nyack for his display of speed akin to a kayak’s racing through the water, and the Los Angeles Times had a picture of him on April 3 with the caption “Stars boast another ‘Ty’: Introducing Jim (Ty) Tyack, not Cobb, who banged a homer and single yesterday and also made a spectacular catch to help Hollywood win opener from Angels, 10-6.”

The surging Stars took their fourth win in five games on April 5 as Tyack played the hero, doubling with the bases loaded to drive in two runs in his squad’s four-run third inning, en route to a 4-3 win over Portland.

Through 10 games, Tyack was batting .350, but his hitting began to deteriorate and he found himself on the bench. Going into the doubleheader on May 28, he had appeared on only 35 of his team’s 56 games, and his average had plummeted to .247.

At the conclusion of the doubleheader loss at Oakland on May 28, the Stars had fallen off the pace and were in sixth place (in the eight-team league) with a record of 26-32. On that day, Tyack went 3-for-8, including a double and a triple but was knocked unconscious in a collision at second base in the sixth inning of the second game, when his head smashed into the knee of the Oakland shortstop. He had reached base on an infield hit and on the subsequent play was hurt. The injured Tyack was carried from the field and taken to the local hospital for observation, as it was feared that he had suffered a concussion. His injury kept him sidelined and, on June 24, he was farmed out to Little Rock of the ClassA-1 Southern Association, where he stayed through July 30. He batted .354 in 39 games with Little Rock, earning a recall to Hollywood on August 4, much to the disappointment of the fans in Little Rock. With the Travelers, he fashioned a 19-game hitting streak, during which he batted .380. The team escaped the cellar in the eight-team league and by the time he left had climbed into sixth place. The move back to Hollywood was expedited by injuries to three key Stars outfielders.

All healed, the speedster was once again getting notices in the Los Angeles Times. On August 11, writer Bob Ray noted that “A positive fielding sensation is Jim Tyack, the fleet-footed Hollywooder who has replaced George Puccinelli in right field for the Stars. Tyack has made spectacular catches in practically every game he has played for the Twinks since his recall from Little Rock. He covers more territory than an R. F. D. mailman.” He was put in match races against players from other teams. On August 6, between games of a doubleheader, he defeated Bill Sweeney of the Portland Beavers, rounding the bases in 14.0 seconds. That same day, he doubled in each game as the Stars defeated Portland by identical 8-6 scores.

By that point, however, the Stars were out of contention despite their success at the beginning of the season. The following Sunday, he was to be pitted against Ted Jennings of the San Francisco Seals, but, on August 11, Tyack sprained his ankle when he ran into the bleacher railing chasing a fly ball and was out of the starting lineup for almost three weeks. When he returned, he went on a tear, raising his average with the Stars from .252 to .284. Nevertheless, the team couldn’t escape the second division and finished in fifth place. As predicted in The Sporting News in its September 7 issue, the team underwent significant changes during the offseason and Tyack was sold outright to Little Rock.

He batted .306 for the Travelers in 1940, but, except for a couple of late-season pinch-hitting appearances, did not play after June 20. He broke his arm on June 20 in a collision at second base, trying to break up a double play, in the second inning of a 6-2 loss to Chattanooga. He only played in 58 games for Little Rock. Before his season came to an unfortunate halt, he had tripled in the decisive run in a 12-inning 6-5 win over Nashville on May 21.

For the first time in three years, Tyack was completely healthy in 1941 and batted .335 for Little Rock. In a slugfest on July 20, the Travelers defeated Knoxville 11-10 in 10 innings, as he hit a first-inning grand slam. But there were few highlights for Little Rock in 1941 as they finished sixth in the eight-team Southern Association. Tyack continued to have problems in the field. Although he did gun down 15 runners, he led the league’s outfielders in errors with 17.
Tyack was still in Little Rock in 1942, and following their showing in 1941, not much was expected in 1942. Surprisingly, the team was in contention all season and Tyack played a major role in their success, especially during the latter part of the season. On August 16, in a doubleheader sweep of Birmingham, he went 2-for-4 in the opener, scoring each of his team’s two runs. He homered to lead off the game and doubled and scored the decisive tally in the ninth inning. In the nightcap, he went 2-for-3, knocking in both of Little Rock’s runs with a fifth-inning triple. On August 30, in the nightcap of a doubleheader sweep, he also starred, hitting a home run to give his team a 3-2 win in the bottom of the 14th inning. The fans were so appreciative that they took up an impromptu collection for Tyack and pitcher Frank Papish, who had pitcher the entire game. Each player received $51.07, a cigar, and a streetcar fare token.

Down the stretch, the Travelers won 13 straight games to capture the Southern Association pennant after being given a one in 100 chance of winning at the beginning of the season. For the season, Tyack batted .309 with 12 homers, his best home run output since 1938, and a league-leading 19 triples.

By the time the United States entered World War II, Jim and Margaret had two children and he was not among the ballplayers called to serve in the military. In 1942 he had done well enough with Little Rock that Connie Mack purchased his contract at the end of the season and he joined the Philadelphia Athletics in 1943.

A letter from Mr. Mack arrived at the Tyack household instructing him to report to the A’s immediately. In 1943, that meant reporting to an armory in Wilmington, Delaware, where the A’s were training for the upcoming season.

Jim Tyack, at age 32 and after three years of college, another three years playing softball and semipro ball in California, and seven years in the minors, was thrilled at the opportunity to play in the major leagues, regardless of the circumstances. People around the country woke up on April 15 to read the story that first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and was picked up by the Associated Press. They learned all about “lanky, raw-boned, Jim Tyack, who looks more like a railroad engineer than a rookie,” and his long journey to his opportunity to play in the big leagues. He said, “Golly, I’ve heard ballplayers say, ‘Let them send me back to the bushes just so I can get the same money.’ [his major-league salary was less than his minor-league salary.] Well, let them cut [my salary] if they want to, just so I can stay up here.”

He began the 1943 season in the A’s Opening Day lineup, after beating out Roberto Estalella for the left-field job and played in each of the team’s first 11 games. On Opening Day in Washington, he had two hits, a double and single, with two RBIs, but the A’s lost to the Senators 7-5. His third-inning double off Dutch Leonard was his first major-league hit and keyed a three-run rally. He went 2-for-4 and 3-for-5 in consecutive wins over the Red Sox on April 23-24; he was batting .389. However, this success was short-lived, and he went into a slump that saw his average drop to .236 by the end of May.

On April 27, despite going 0-for-7, he sparkled in the field with two spectacular plays in a 16-inning 2-1 win over Washington. In the second inning, he speared a bases-loaded line drive of the bat of Early Wynn to snuff out a rally, and in the ninth inning he cut off a double by Mickey Vernon andgunned the ball to the cutoff man Dick Siebert who relayed the throw home in time to nail Washington’s Bob Johnson and send the game into extra innings.

June arrived and Tyack’s bat reawakened. His highlight of the month came on June 13 when he went 5-for-7 with four RBIs in a doubleheader sweep of the first-place Yankees, ending New York’s five-game winning streak. The sweep evened the A’s record at 24-24. In the first game, he singled in the tying run, and in the second game he knocked in each of the A’s three runs, two of them with his first and only major-league triple. As noted in the New York Times, “[Yankees pitcher] Bill Zuber found that he was playing with fire every time Jim Tyack swung a bat with men on the bases.” Tyack’s average stood at .287. However, his fielding was suspect. Although he had made only two errors, he lacked the range necessary to play regularly in the major leagues.

In all, he appeared in 54 games with the A’s and batted .258 with eight doubles, one triple, and no home runs. He had 23 RBIs. His last game was on August 1. On August 2, he was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League in exchange for Jimmy Ripple.

He first appeared with Toronto in a doubleheader on August 5, hitting two doubles and a triple for the Maple Leafs as they swept Syracuse 1-0 and 4-2. He spent the balance of 1943 with Toronto, batting .253 in 41 games and returned to the Maple Leafs for the entire 1944 season. He batted .314 for the Maple Leafs in 1944, and his 15 stolen bases included a steal of home on May 8 against Syracuse. He moved on to the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in 1945, batting .326, with career highs in RBIs (69) and stolen bases (19), but as more players returned from the war, his playing time and productivity decreased in 1946. In his second and last season with Los Angeles, he got into only 100 games and batted .244.

Tyack spent his final two seasons in the low minors. In 1947, the 36-year-old Tyack served as the player-manager of the Pocatello (Idaho) Cardinals of the Class C Pioneer League. His family in tow, he found an apartment that was adjacent to an area nightclub. This made for some noisy nights. He had family in the area and was able to visit with cousins when the team travelled to Boise. He batted .342 for the season. While at Pocatello, he stirred the wrath of league president Jack Halliwell. Each time he was fined, he would pay off the fine at home plate – with a sack full of pennies, which Halliwell had to count. After a while, Halliwell insisted that the fines be paid with paper money. The following season, he started the season with Willows (California) in the Class D Far West League, where he was the player-manager. He was let go in early July and finished up playing in his hometown for Bakersfield in the Class C California League.

His playing days over, it was time to get on with the rest of his life. Tyack had five cousins in the tire business in Los Angeles. They were the grandchildren of that old Indian fighter, William Smith. They operated an outlet called Five Brothers Tires in Montebello, near Los Angeles. However, there were no recapping and treading facilities in Los Angeles. There was a recapping and treading facility in Bakersfield at the Oil Field Trucking Company, and Tyack joined in the business as a partner. Two of the cousins joined him and the business proved quite profitable. Each Wednesday, a truck filled with used bald tires would arrive in Bakersfield from Los Angeles, and Jim and the two cousins would recap the tires and send them back to Los Angeles to be sold at the Five Brothers store.. Tyack eventually proceeded to buy out his partners (all of whom by then were back in Los Angeles) and opened and operated a successful tire distributorship in Bakersfield. He continued to play semipro ball after leaving Organized Baseball.

In 1974, he was inducted into the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame in Bakersfield. His wife Margaret passed away in 1994. Tyack suffered two heart attacks about a month apart and died on January 3, 1995. He was posthumously honored in 2014 as being one of only two players to letter in four sports at Bakersfield Junior College.

Sources
Dawson, James P. “Yankees Bow Twice to the Athletics after Running Streak to Five Victories,” The New York Times, June 14, 1943, 22.
Dyer, Braven. “The Sports Parade: Jim Tyack Gets a Break at Last and will Open the Season in Right Field for Hollywood Club,” Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1939, A-15.
Press, Larry. “Uhalt, Tyack, Culver Enter Bob Elias Hall,” The Bakersfield Californian, January 29, 1974, 12.
Smith, Red. “These are Bad Times for the Big Dreams of Young and Old Who Don’t Make Majors,” Milwaukee Sentinel, March 26, 1956, 2, 14.
Wiley, Tom. “Tyack Belts Home Run to Defeat Mooersmen,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 30, 1937, 16.
The Bakersfield Californian
Los Angeles Times
The New York Times
The Sporting News

Online Sources:
Ancestry.Com
Baseball-Reference.com
FultonHistory.com
GenealogyBank.com
NewspaperArchive.com
Newspapers.com

Interviews with James Tyack IV on August 4, 2014 and S

Mark Twain on Baseball

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Mark Twain in his Hartford years Mark Twain in his Hartford years

I am thinking about Hartford now, and Mr. Clemens, because on Wednesday, September 17, I will be part of a panel at the Mark Twain House, “Base Ball in Mark Twain’s Time.” [http://goo.gl/YQGWQz] Yes, he made the famous speech at Delmonico’s in 1889 honoring the returning World Tourists (in which he called baseball “the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of all the drive and push and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century”).And baseball certainly figures in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: an armor-plated runner sliding into a base, the novelist wrote, “was like an iron-clad coming into port.” But Mark Twain’s only extended passage on the national pastime from the 1870s, when he attended games of the Hartford Base Ball Club in the National League, is this one. It originated as part of a larger work that was to be…

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The Jim Lindsey Story

The year was 1920 and a young flame thrower had just gotten married. The date of the marriage was May 3, 1920. The young couple stopped off at the Crescent Theater in New Orleans and the marriage license slipped out. It was recovered by an usher, but it was an awkward start in life for Jim Kendrick Lindsey and his bride, the former Carlotta Matthews. Jim and Carlotta remained married for 43 years and had one daughter and three grandchildren.

Jim Lindsey never strayed too far from his Louisiana home. He was born in Greensburg on January 24, 1899 and died 35 miles away in Jackson, Louisiana, on October 25, 1963.

He was one of eight children and had four sisters and three brothers. His father, Hollis Womack Lindsey Sr., was a farmer and cattleman, who served as Sheriff and later State game conservation agent for St. Helena Parish. His mother was the former Margaret Minerva Thompson. His sister Doris Lindsey Holland was the first woman to serve in the Louisiana State legislature.

When pitching in the minor leagues, he would return home after the season and pitch for the semipro team representing the Standard Oil Company of Louisiana refinery, Stanocola, from whom he was originally obtained in 1920 by the Cleveland Indians. One such outing took place on September 19, 1926 when his Stanocola team defeated Placquemine 8-0 as “Big Jim” limited the opposition to two hits and went 3-for-4 at the plate.

Young Jim was quite impressionable, and his father was fond of telling this story about 9-year-old Jim Lindsey. They went to town and saw a picture show. In the show, there was a deluge in some tropical land. Young Jim was very much worried and suggested that they go out and cover the hay in their wagon.

His first mound success came at the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Port Gibson, Mississippi, where he pitched for two years. He was later with Cleveland, Mississippi, in the semipro Delta League. By 1919, “Plantation Jim”, as he was then known was working as a crude oil stillman and pitching for the refinery.

He signed his first professional contract with the Cleveland Indians in 1920, but although he had trials with the New Orleans Pelicans of the Class A Southern Association and trained with the Tribe, he spent 1920 and 1921 with Stanocola. He also pitched in the New Orleans semipro Dixie League for a team known as the Peppermints.

In 1922, he was among 18 pitchers who reported to Dallas for spring training with Tris Speaker’s Cleveland Indians. On March 27, in an intra-squad game, he virtually assured himself of a roster spot by limiting the squad comprised of regulars to two hits and pitching five innings in a 3-2 win. His control in that game set him apart. In his first two springs with the Indians, he had been the “wildest thing in pitching”. His efforts that day were universally praised and Smoky Joe Wood, who had won 34 games as a pitcher with the 1912 Red Sox and was finishing his career with an outfielder with the Indians, summed it all up by stating that “I never saw Jim look as good as he did today. He could throw the ball where he wanted to. In other years, he has lacked control.”

The Indians brought him north. It was Lindsey’s first time out of the South. Upon arriving in Chicago for the first time, Plantation Jim observed, “She’s some village.” He was one of 46 players on the Cleveland revolving-door team of 1922. He appeared in 29 games, all but five as a reliever.

He was pressed into service as a starter for the first time on May 11, pitching the first six innings in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics that Cleveland eventually won, 5-4. His first win came on June 11, 1922, one month later, against Philadelphia. He came on in relief and pitched four shutout innings as the Indians, down 8-4 at one point, came back to win, 9-8.

His prowess at the plate was not particularly exceptional. His first major-league hit, a single, came on June 17, 1922, in a 14-inning marathon against Boston. Lindsey put out the fire in the fourth inning and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. After singling in the sixth, he injured himself sliding, and came out of the game. His first and only RBI of the 1922 season came in an 11-3 loss to the Yankees on July 6 during the second game of a doubleheader.

Facing the mighty Yankees on July 9, Lindsey had his best outing of 1922. He came into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with New York leading. Lindsey allowed an unearned run in the eighth and the Indians tied the score in the ninth and the game went into extra innings. The Tribe scored a pair in the 13th to go out in front and Lindsey held off the likes of Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel, going the last six innings to earn his third win of the season. Four days later against the Red Sox, he was almost as good. He came in with runners on first and third with none out in the sixth, allowing but one hit in the last four innings as the Indians came back to win, 4-2. It was Lindsey’s fourth and last win of the season.

Despite these flashes of brilliance, Lindsey’s overall performance in his rookie season was not superlative. For the season, he went 4-5 and posted an ERA of 5.92.

Unfortunately, Jim was sent back to the minors in 1923, and spent the better part of the next seven seasons in the minor leagues.

In 1923, he was with Milwaukee in the Class AA American Association and went 8-12. The Indians brought him back to the major leagues for the start of the 1924 season, but he only got into three games, allowing seven runs in three innings, before being sold to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association at the end of June. During the balance of the season, he went 3-4 with the Blues.

Reflecting on his lack of success in 1924, Lindsey told an interesting story which appeared in the several publications in December, 1930. It seems that Lindsey was rooming with Sumpter Clarke and Guy Morton. Clarke’s mother had sent the men a ham. Clarke had the ham with breakfast on June 7 and later that day was released by the club. The ham was given to Morton, and he too was released after eating the ham on June 11. The ham wound up in Lindsey’s hands. He wasted no time in throwing the ham out the rear window, but it was too late. Lindsey was sent to Kansas City not long thereafter, where he developed neuritis in his pitching arm that lingered into the following season.

The next five seasons were spent in the Class A Texas League. He began the 1925 season with Dallas and was released on May 3. He signed on with San Antonio. While with San Antonio, he was checked out and it was discerned that he had three bad teeth that were causing his problems. Following dental surgery, his arm came around.
In his first appearance against his old club on May 26, he was the winning pitcher as San Antonio defeated Dallas, 5-3. His combined record in 1925 was 9-10.

Over the next two seasons, Lindsey went a combined 28-24 for San Antonio. He was highly regarded and New Orleans sought his services. However, San Antonio was reluctant to sell. The rules in effect at the time allowed major-league teams to draft players if they were not sold by their minor-league team pursuant to the conclusion of a season. The National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates, elected to draft Lindsey, but he wound up back in the Texas League, this time with the Houston Buffaloes.

His two years with Houston, under the tutelage of former minor league catcher Frank Snyder were exceptional, and he went 46-20. In 1928, he led the circuit with 25 wins as Houston went on to play Wichita Falls for the league championship. After defeating Wichita Falls, they went on to play Birmingham of the Southern Association for the Dixie Championship. After dropping the first two games, the Buffaloes came back to win the next four games. Lindsey pitched Houston to its first win in the series, in Game Three.

He resumed his march back to the major leagues in 1929 by winning six of his first seven starts, including four shutouts. One of those shutouts was observed by Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey. In all, he had a league-leading eight shutouts in his 20 wins with Houston that season. At one point, he pitched a league-record 30 successive shutout innings, and he had nine games were he allowed five hits or less, including a one-hitter. On June 16, he pitched the shortest game of the year (one hour and 20 minutes) against Dallas. He was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals at the end of August. In his first start, on September 15, he pitched a complete game as the Cardinals beat the New York Giants, 6-4, in the second game of a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park. A week later, he pitched six innings of one hit ball (the only hit was by pitcher Dazzy Vance) against the Brooklyn Robins, but ran into problems in the seventh and eighth, surrendering six runs as Brooklyn won, 7-2. Not long thereafter, he was stuck by appendicitis.

After a strong finish to his 1929 season with Houston and his first success with the Cardinals, he had a poor spring training in 1930, and was on the verge of being sent back to the minor leagues.

But he stayed with St. Louis and had a 7-5 record. On May 13, against the Giants, he entered the game with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth inning and was in command the rest of the way as the Cards came from behind to beat the Giants, 6-4, giving Lindsey his second win of the season. Useful as both starter and reliever, his versatility was very apparent in the month of August. On August 6, he secured his fourth save of the season, pitching the final two innings in a 4-3 win over the Cubs. He held Chicago scoreless and got the final two outs striking out Charley Grimm and Gabby Hartnett in the ninth inning. In addition to five relief appearances, he started five games in August. In his starts, he went 3-2. He pitched three complete games in those starts.

On a very deep pitching staff, led by Wild Bill Hallahan and Burleigh Grimes, Lindsey didn’t get much in the way of notoriety, but he had shown his mettle as the Cardinals won the National League pennant and went on to face the Philadelphia A’s in the World Series. Lindsey was used sparingly in the Series, getting into two games, pitching 4 2/3 innings, and allowing only one run. Unfortunately, by the time he entered Games Two and Six, the matter was decided as the A’s had built up substantial leads.

In his World Series debut in Game Two, he relieved Flint Rhem, and pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He came to bat just once, singling off George Earnshaw, but the Cardinals lost the game, 6-1. Reflecting on his hit, in characteristic Lindsey style, he said that he “stretched a triple into a single.” He was also effective in the decisive sixth game, pitching two innings, but once again he entered the game too late to make a difference. The Cardinals lost the game, 7-1, falling in six games to the Athletics.

Lindsey had one of his best seasons in 1931, primarily as a reliever, when relieving was not a role to which many aspired. In his first eight appearances, he pitched 14 innings and allowed but one run. It was written that “No matter how gloomy the outlook, when manager Gabby Street gives him the nod, Big Jim strolls to the hill with the nonchalance of a bride making her fifth trip to the altar. They say, in St. Louis, that his attitude upsets the mental poise of the enemy batters. Regardless of whether there is anything to the theory, he usually gets them out with undue delay.”

Wire to wire, Lindsey was in command. In his first three appearances, all in relief, he had two saves and a win. As of June 24, his ERA was below 2.00.

As the Cardinals were headed toward a pennant win, Lindsey came out of the bullpen for a spot start on September 15, and came through with a 5-0 shutout, to bring the Cards within a game of clinching the pennant. It was his sixth win of the season, against four losses. Out of the bullpen, he had seven saves, good for second in the league, and his ERA for the 1931 season was 2.77.

The Cardinals went to the World Series for the second consecutive year and once again faced Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. Although St. Louis lost both of the games in which he appeared in relief, they won the series in seven games.

In two World Series, Lindsey pitched eight innings in relief, giving up five runs (three earned). He had no decisions in four games with a 3.38 ERA, and batted 1.000 (1-for-1).

It was common for Lindsey to eat up innings coming out of the bullpen, and this was very much the case on July 20, 1932. Lindsey came in when started Tex Carleton faltered in the second inning. The score was 3-2 in favor of the Cardinals when Lindsey entered the game with none out in the second stanza with two runs already in for the Dodgers, and the tying run standing at first base. He stopped the bleeding and pitched the remainder of the game, securing his third win of the season, as the Cardinals won, 16-5.

For the 1932 season, Lindsey went 3-3 with a 4.94 ERA as the Cardinals dropped to a sixth-place finish.

Lindsey started the 1933 season with St. Louis but only appeared in one game before being sent to the minors at the end of April.

During the 1933 minor-league season Lindsey was toiling for the Cardinals’ Columbus minor-league affiliate when he was traded, as part of an eight-player deal, to Class AA Rochester of the International League. In his time with Columbus, he was 7-2 with a 3.69 ERA. One of the reasons for the trade was that Columbus, prior to the trade, had been found in violation of the American Association’s salary agreement. The league officials had suspended Lindsey, along with three other players. Rochester was able to assume Lindsey’s contract “without violating any of the International League rules in any way.” At the time, the monthly payroll limit in the American Association was $6,500. This was considerably less than the $8,500 limit in the International League. When he was suspended, Lindsey had been assessed a fine of $200. The fine was later rescinded.

With Rochester, he was only 3-9, but excelled in the International League playoff, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief in the third game of the series as Rochester came from behind to win, 4-2, and take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Prior to the 1934 season, the Cincinnati Reds secured the contract of Lindsey, and he began the season in the Queen City. On May 23, of that year, after appearing in four games and pitching four innings, he was sold to St. Paul of the American Association and he was back with the Cardinals on June 5. Between June 6 and July 8, he appeared in 11 games, all in relief.

One game in particular was memorable. On July 1, during the first game of a doubleheader, Dizzy Dean was matched up against Tony Freitas of the Cincinnati Reds. Although neither pitcher was particularly effective, they were still pitching as the score was 5-5 at the nine-inning mark. Into extra innings they went and there was no further scoring, with Dean and Freitas pitching, until the 17th inning. Ducky Medwick put St. Louis in the lead with a homer, but the Reds tied the score in their half of the inning. The Cardinals then took the lead in the 18th inning with a pair of runs off Paul Derringer who had come in to relieve Freitas after Freitas was pulled for a pinch hitter in the 17th inning. In the top of the 18th, Pat Crawford pinch hit for Dean, came through with a single, and wound up scoring the final run of the game. Lindsey came on to pitch the final inning for St. Louis, holding the Reds scoreless. It was Lindsey’s last hurrah with St. Louis. There were two more appearances, neither notable, and he was released on July 10 after going 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA. He may not have been around to see the Cardinals win the pennant by a mere two games over the New York Giants, but that last save, on July 1, made him part of the story.

His next stop was in Atlanta. For four seasons, beginning at age 35, he hurled with success for the Atlanta Crackers of the Class A (1934-35) then Class A1 (1936-37) Southern Association, going 36-25. Used mostly as a reliever, he continued to excel, as he had in his major league days when given an occasional spot start. His curveball was still effective as he pitched the Atlanta Crackers to a 9-2 win over Oklahoma City in the second game of the 1935 Dixie Series between the champions of the Southern Association and the Texas league.

Late in the 1937 season, following his release from Atlanta, Lindsey signed on with the Brooklyn Dodgers, managed by Burleigh Grimes. The team was short on pitching when four pitchers became unavailable. In 20 games with the Dodgers, the 38-year-old Lindsey went 0-1 with two saves, with a 3.52 ERA. His last major-league appearance came on September 27, 1937.

His major-league career numbers included a 21-20 won loss record over nine seasons with a 4.68 ERA. Although the save statistic wasn’t used at the time, he had 19 saves using current the save definition.

In 1938, he worked out with the New York Giants, who were training in Baton Rouge, so as to be in shape for the Southern Association season, or maybe even another crack at the big leagues. He spent the year in the Southern Association playing with Chattanooga and Arkansas. There was still something left in the 39-year-old arm. In his last outing of consequence, he pitched a seven-inning shutout as Chattanooga defeated Atlanta 5-0 in the second game of a doubleheader on May 29, 1938. But the writing was on the wall. For the season he went 3-8, and his professional baseball career was over.

But the memories and most definitely the stories would continue on, spoken with Lindsey’s slow Southern drawl and impeccable timing. Of course, the facts were not always accurate, but Jim Lindsey could tell a tale. Here is an example. In his early minor-league days, as he told it, he was with the New Orleans Pelicans and they were playing Birmingham toward the end of the season. The game was getting on in innings and it was getting dark. Nevertheless, the umpire insisted that play continue. New Orleans took the lead in the bottom of the eighth and Lindsey stayed in to pitch the ninth for the Pelicans. Before you knew it, Birmingham had loaded the bases with two outs. The count went to three and two. The catcher, Bob Higgins, went out to the mound to talk with Lindsey. Worried about a wild pitch, since he couldn’t see the ball, the catcher told Lindsey to take his normal windup but to not throw the ball. Lindsey followed Higgins’ instructions. As the phantom pitch arrived, Higgins slammed his glove into the mitt. The umpire called “strike three!” The batter, of course, was irate. He shouted, “Why, that pitch was a foot outside!”

After he retired from baseball at the end of the 1938 season, Lindsey operated a dairy farm with mixed breeds of cattle at Baton Rouge. Governor Earl Long appointed him farm manager at the East Louisiana State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana, and he sold the farm in Baton Rouge. However, his daughter Colleen gave up a modeling career, returned to Louisiana, and decided to stay in the dairy business. She kept the herd, bought another farm, and eventually bred prize winning Holstein cattle. Colleen and her husband John Kinchen had three children, Tommy, John James, and Portia.

Lindsey, a member of the Jackson Methodist Church, continued in his position as farm manager until he passed away on October 25, 1963 at age 64.
Sources
The following databases and files were used:
Ancsestry.com
BaseballReference.com
Paper of Record
GenealogyBank.com
NewspaperArchive.com
Jim Lindsey file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Library

The following newspapers were used:
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Dallas Morning News
New Orleans Item
Rochester (NY) Democrat Chronicle
Springfield Republican
State Times Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Newspaper Articles:
Bell, Stuart M., “Jim Lindsey is Big Noise as Cleveland Yannigans Hang it on to the Regulars”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 28, 1922, 13.

Dixon, Margaret, “Two Big League Baseball Players Consider Retirement”. The Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), December 4, 1938, 7-B.

Holmes, Thomas “Robins Lost Golden Opportunity by Failing to Sweep St. Louis Series”. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 23, 1929, 22.

Keyerleber, Kyle “Laughs in Sports”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 17, 1939, 16

Powers, Frances J., “Red Sox Miscalculate on Joe Sewell’s Ability and Indians win again 4-2”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 14, 1922, 18.

Singleton, W. B. (Bill) “Familiar Faces in the Big Show”, Dallas Morning News, December 21, 1930, sports section, 2.

Whitman, Burt, “Close Decision is Given Against Sox, Who Lose”, Boston Herald, July 14, 1922, 15.

Van Lingle Mungo Story

“He is another Vance, another Dazzy, I’m telling you. Hasn’t the best disposition in the world. You know some of those Carolina fellows get funny ideas sometimes, but he certainly can buzz that ball over. Best young pitcher I’ve seen since Rube Marquard. Only he is faster than Rube was. Say, maybe he is another Walter Johnson. I’ll bet he will be winning 20 to 25 games a year for this club for a long time.” So said manager Wilbert Robinson late in the 1931 season when a young Van Lingle Mungo joined the Dodgers for the first time.

It wasn’t long before the Brooklyn populace became obsessed with the young phenom. “I was paying more attention to Van Lingle Mungo than I was to Moses,” said Bill Mazer, reminiscing about his days in a Brooklyn yeshiva during the 1930’s.
And sportswriter Jimmy Cannon, in 1970, wrote about those days in Brooklyn. “The Dodgers traveled around the league in ridiculed obscurity. But Mungo was famous and exciting, and they would bring him into a city advertised to pitch against the other club’s best. All over Brooklyn, people would stop ball writers. ‘How’s the arm?’ they would ask. They seldom mentioned Mungo’s name. There was only one arm in Brooklyn.”

Mazer also noted, “It was a constant struggle for Mungo. He had all the equipment, but he was like Sisyphus in the Greek myth. He kept rolling the stone uphill, and it kept rolling back.”

Van Lingle Mungo was born in Pageland, South Carolina, on June 8, 1911, to Henry Van and Martha Charlotte (Lingle) Mungo. Van’s middle name was his mother’s maiden name. His father, a cotton grower and retailer, had himself been a pitcher, plying his trade in the Sally League during the early years of the 20th century. Van’s father gave him his first big break in 1926, and Van, at age 15, pitched the Pageland town team to victory in its most important game of the year. Having defeated every other town team in the area, there was only one team left to conquer – Cheraw. Cheraw’s star pitcher was Buck (aka Bobo) Newsom, who went on to pitch in the major leagues from 1929 through 1953. Mungo’s father managed the team, and at stake were 13 bales of cotton. Van was one of two children. His sister, Lucille, was born in 1908, and as an adult worked as a saleswoman in the family’s retail store.

Mungo graduated from Pageland High School in 1928 and began his career in 1929, pitching for Fayetteville, North Carolina, in the Class D Eastern Carolina Association and going 10-9. Late that season he pitched in one game for Charlotte in the Class B South Atlantic (Sally) League.

Mungo spent most of 1930 with Winston-Salem in the Class C Piedmont League, going 11-11, and his work impressed George Napoleon “Nap” Rucker, who was scouting the South for the Robins. Brooklyn acquired his contract from Winston-Salem at the end of the season, and assigned him to its affiliate in the Eastern League, the Hartford Senators, in 1931.

Mungo’s first appearance of the 1931 season was not particularly auspicious. In the season opener, on April 27 at New Haven, Hartford had taken a 10-3 lead into the ninth inning against the Bulldogs. Hartford’s starter, Johnny Krider, got into difficultly and Mungo came into the game with none out, the bases loaded, and the score 10-4. Van sandwiched two strikeouts around a walk but an error by the shortstop and another walk made the score 10-7, and Mungo’s day was over. New Haven continued its rally against two other pitchers and won the game, 11-10. The team rebounded from this start to post a 97-40 record. The 20-year-old Mungo was 15-5 and led the league with 151 strikeouts in 191 innings pitched. His 2.12 earned-run average was third best in the league.

At the end of the season, Mungo was called up to Brooklyn, and posted a 3-1 record. He shined in his debut, shutting out the Boston Braves, 2-0, on three hits on September 7. At the plate he singled and tripled. Before the game Mungo had split the sole of one of his baseball shoes. The only shoes that fit him belonged to Dazzy Vance, Brooklyn’s star pitcher of the 1920s, who was, at age 40, nearing the end of his career. That being the case, Mungo stepped into Vance’s shoes literally as well as figuratively.

Mungo was the only quality pitcher on some very bad Dodgers teams in the 1930s. In his first full season with Brooklyn he went 13-11 in 1932 as the Dodgers finished third in the league with an 81-73 record for new manager Max Carey. During each of the next six seasons, the Dodgers lost more games than they won. Before each season Mungo would promise to anyone and everyone that he would win 20 games. And each season, the promise of spring met up with the reality of summer, and Mungo never won more than 18 games.

Eloise Clamp of Salley, South Carolina, was teaching school in Mount Croghan, ten miles east of Pageland. One day she was en route to the post office in Pageland when Mungo drove by with some friends. One look was all that was needed. The car stopped and Van met Eloise. The two fell in love, but Eloise’s father, Ernest, who worked for the post office, frowned on his daughter marrying a “celebrity.” Nonetheless, Van and Eloise were secretly married on December 10, 1932. They welcomed their first child, Pamela, in 1934. Van Jr., known as Sonny, followed in 1937, and their youngest child, Ernest, came along in 1943. Ernest played outfield in the minor leagues from 1962 through 1964, making it as far as Class A. Eloise went on to teach for 28 years, and remained devoted to her husband, despite the fact that over the years, as legend has it, many females caught the eye of Van Lingle Mungo.

In 1933 Mungo went 16-15 with a 2.72 ERA as the Dodgers finished in sixth place with a 65-88 record. Then in 1934, Mungo was named to the All-Star team for the first time. It was the game in which Carl Hubbell struck out five future Hall of Famers in succession (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, and Cronin). Mungo did not fare as well. He entered the game in the top of the fifth inning with his National Leaguers leading 4-2. Lon Warneke had walked the first two batters in the inning, and Mungo was summoned from the bullpen. In his inning of pitching, he allowed three singles and a double and the American League scored six runs, four of which were charged to Mungo, as he was tagged with the loss.
Mungo was a workhorse that season, leading the league in games started (38) and innings pitched (315⅓).But his last start was his most important. Before the season, Giants manager Bill Terry famously asked whether the Dodgers were still in the league. Casey Stengel was now the Dodgers manager, and the Dodgers made it their mission to derail New York as the Giants contended with the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League pennant. The Cardinals and Giants were tied going into the last weekend of the season. The Giants’ last two games were against the Dodgers. On Saturday, September 29, manager Stengel handed the ball to Mungo. The ace went the distance, allowing only five hits, to gain his 18th win of the season (against 16 losses) and the Cardinals passed the Giants in the standings. In the 5-1 game, Mungo starred at the plate as well, hitting two singles, scoring the Dodgers’ first run and driving in the second, which was all Brooklyn would need. Mungo’s ninth-inning performance put the icing on the cake. After the first two batters reached base, he struck out Travis Jackson, George Watkins (who had homered earlier for the Giants’ sole tally), and pinch-hitter Lefty O’Doul, all on called third strikes, to end the game. Fifty years later, Mungo looked back on that moment as the highlight of his career.

After his 18-win season in 1934, Mungo felt he was due a more significant salary than the Dodgers were offering, and he elected to hold out for a better deal in 1935, not reporting until the end of February. Any number of sources quoted any number of figures ranging from $10,500 to $13,000. That year Mungo posted a 16-10 record, including a league-leading four shutouts. On September 29 he struck out 15 Philadelphia Phillies en route to his final win of the season.

He might have reached the elusive 20-win mark but for an injury that resulted in his not starting a game for close to eight weeks during July and August. The injury to his middle finger was initially sustained on May 12 when it was struck by a line drive off the bat of Sam Byrd of Cincinnati. The finger was placed in a cast for two weeks and he made five relief appearances, none longer than 3⅓ innings, between July 4 and August 26.

Not only did Mungo have a great year on the mound, but he excelled at the plate as well. During spring training, Stengel encouraged Mungo to stop swinging for the fences and to concentrate on singles. During the early part of the season, he went on a tear. Through five games, he was batting .474 (9-for-19) with two doubles and eight RBIs. His batting average remained north of .300 through mid-September, and he wound up the season batting .289 (26-for-90).

At the end of the 1935 season, Mungo made his way back to Pageland by car with his batterymate, Al Lopez. Lopez would drop Mungo off en route to his home in Tampa, Florida. Mungo was quick to credit his catcher with a very large share of his success. Unfortunately for Van, this was their last trip together, as Lopez was traded to the Boston Braves over the winter. The new Brooklyn catcher was Babe “Blimp” Phelps, and Mungo did not think particularly highly of Phelps, who would find himself consistently among the league leaders in passed balls.

There was no love lost between New York’s National League teams in the more than 60 years that they shared Gotham, and tempers flared anew in 1936. In just the second game of the season, on April 15, Mungo was pitching for the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds and threw a pitch in the general direction of Dick Bartell’s head. On the next pitch, Rowdy Richard bunted toward first base. Mungo ran to cover first, but Giants first baseman Buddy Hassett made the unassisted putout. During the play, Mungo bumped the smaller Bartell and sent him sprawling. A fight ensued, both players were ejected, and each was subsequently fined $25.

But this was 1936 and the Dodgers were still quite the daffy bunch. The next day, Mungo came on in relief of Ed Brandt with two outs in the fifth inning. The Dodgers rallied to take a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. There were two outs before the Giants could mount a rally, but mount one they did. They had runners on first and second when Hank Lieber strode to the plate. Lieber was coming off a season in which he had batted .331 with 22 homers, but Mungo induced Lieber to hit a popup that sailed into short left field. Left fielder Freddie Lindstrom was poised to make the catch, as was shortstop Jimmy “Lord” Jordan. After the ensuing collision, the ball fell to the ground, as did Lindstrom and Jordan. Both runners scampered home for a 7-6 Giants win, and Mungo was off to a 0-2 start.

The fun was just beginning. By early June the Dodgers were giving Mungo little support, offensively or defensively, and after two June losses took his record to 6-8 (five of the losses by one run), he demanded to be traded. A sportswriter, Eddie Zeltner, smelled a good story, and arranged for airfare to get Mungo out of town, which in this case was Pittsburgh. Mungo, not one to turn down a favor, temporarily left the team on June 10, much to the consternation of manager Stengel. He returned after three days, joining the club in Cincinnati and receiving a $600 fine. From that point on, as noted by Tommy Holmes of the Brooklyn Eagle, Mungo was “likely to become the center of a number of wild reports every time somebody sees him, or thinks they see him, drink a glass of beer.”

On June 25, 1936, Mungo pitched a masterpiece – and lost. Against the Cincinnati Reds, he struck out a record seven consecutive batters, 11 in all, but the Dodgers lost, 5-4. Only three of the runs scored against him were earned. It was the first of six times that Mungo struck out ten or more batters in a game in 1936. The workhorse of the Dodgers staff started a league-leading 37 games that year, posted an 18-19 record, and led the league with a career-high 238 strikeouts. He was named to his second All-Star team, but did not appear in the game.

Despite Mungo’s efforts, the Dodgers lost far more than they won, finishing with a 67-87 record. The seventh-place finish did not enthrall the Dodger faithful and it came as no surprise that Casey Stengel did not return for 1937.

Before the 1937 season, Mungo once again expressed dissatisfaction with his contract and once again the number of different estimates correlated with the number of newspapers in the New York area. In any event, he signed for an estimated $15,000 and got to play for his fourth manager in his years with the Dodgers, Burleigh Grimes.

Mungo was unquestionably an outstanding pitcher for the Dodgers. But his violent temper continued to overshadow his talent. In 1937, after a slow start, he was turning his season around and took a streak of four straight wins into the May 16 contest at Boston. The third of those wins came against Pittsburgh at Ebbets Field on May 6. (During the game, the Hindenburg, a giant dirigible, hovered overhead, but the fans took little notice – the Arm was pitching. Later that day, in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the airship burst into flames.)

On May 16, in a tight game, the Dodgers and Bees were knotted, 2-2, as the game entered the 11th inning. Teammate Tom Winsett snuffed out Mungo’s hopes for his fifth victory in succession. He singled to right field with one out in the top of the inning. The next batter hit what appeared to be a single to right but somehow Winsett lost track of the ball and was forced at second base, stopping the rally in its tracks. The Bees won the game in their half of the inning. Mungo completely lost it, ranting and raving and questioning Winsett’s ancestry. Usually players cool down as quickly as they heat up. Not Van Lingle Mungo. He walked several blocks to a telegraph office, fuming all the way, and sent the following wire to his wife. “Pack up your bags and come to Brooklyn, honey. If Winsett can play in the big leagues, it’s a cinch you can too.”

One other off-the-field caper would define Mungo’s season and contribute to his legend as one of the true characters of the game. It also showed that he did not react well to adversity. On May 21 he called his wife in Pageland only to find out that his infant son, Van Jr., was critically ill after surgery. The news prompted Mungo to an evening of drinking. In the early morning hours of May 22, he broke into the hotel room occupied by teammates Woody English and Jimmy Bucher in St. Louis, ostensibly looking for a pinochle game. Bucher confronted Mungo and the latter began throwing furniture over the room. Bucher then sent his fist into Mungo’s face, giving him a black eye. Mungo was fined $1,000 for his extracurricular activities. He then returned home for a short spell to tend to his ailing son, who did recover.

In the soap opera that was Mungo’s career, he then proceeded to win his next four starts, going the distance each time, to bring his record to 8-4. Dodger fielding lapses halted his streak as they fell to Pittsburgh 6-4 on June 18.

On July 4, 1937, while pitching against the Giants, Mungo was forced to leave the game in the eighth inning when he pulled a muscle in his side. He had been chosen for the All-Star team and joined the NL team to Washington. Brooklyn skipper Grimes instructed National League All-Stars manager Bill Terry not to use Mungo in the game. To ensure that Van, who had been known to misbehave, would control himself, the Dodgers sent along their road secretary, Babe Hamberger, a good friend of Van’s, to serve as his manager, valet, trainer, and announcer (spokesman).

Three days later Mungo, who had a 9-7 record at the time, was at his third All-Star Game. At game time, he and Dizzy Dean were arguably the best two right-handed pitchers in the National League. After that day, neither would ever again pitch effectively in the major leagues. Dean started the game for the National League and in the third inning was hit on the foot by a line drive off the bat of Earl Averill. In his haste to return to action later that season, Dean altered his delivery and damaged his arm. A few innings after Dean’s departure, Terry, despite Grimes’s instructions, inserted Mungo into the game. He aggravated his injury and developed a sore shoulder while pitching the sixth and seventh innings. To make things worse, Grimes did not rest his star and handed Mungo the ball on July 11. He lasted only four ineffective innings that day and proceeded to lose his last four decisions in 1937.

Not only was Mungo having arm problems, but he also had tonsillitis. He did not start between July 19 and August 14, as he had his tonsils removed and he rested in Pageland. At the end of August, not long after he came back, Grimes, skeptical of Mungo’s claims of a sore arm, suspended him. Mungo pitched in pain for the balance of his time with the Dodgers, and his blazing fastball was rarely seen again.

Before the 1938 season, before the full extent of Mungo’s arm injuries was known, several teams expressed interest in obtaining his services, including the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. But Mungo, who had some differences with Grimes in 1937 and led the team in fines, returned to the Dodgers for the 1938 season, promising a return to the form he had displayed before the 1937 All-Star Game. Newly appointed Dodgers executive vice president Larry MacPhail, so convinced that Mungo would be his former self, turned down an offer from the Cubs that included four players and $75,000 in cash. (Ultimately, the Cubs acquired Dizzy Dean from the Cardinals for $185,000.). Mungo returned to the Dodgers in 1938 with a renewed determination – again.

On the eve of the season, Mungo had a sobering moment. A man of many moods, he displayed his kinder side when he visited young Jackie Bruger. The six-year-old, who idolized Mungo, had suffered severe burns after falling into a bonfire and had been hospitalized for five months. The boy was in pain, and missing the scheduled exhibition between the Yankees and the Dodgers was, in actuality, the least of his problems. After 13 transfusions, his survival was in question. But his hero, “My friend Mun,” was there.. Mungo autographed a ball for the ever-optimistic youngster and was emotionally overcome as he departed. Through tears he exclaimed, “I think I have troubles. But look at that family.”

By the end of April 1938, Mungo’s arm problems re-emerged. His fastball was not in evidence as he lost his first three decisions. His first win of the season was a 7-0 shutout of the Cubs on May 11. It was vintage Mungo. At the plate he went 2-for-4 with a double, and he struck out nine batters in the cold Chicago air. The effort brought his ERA for the season to 1.91. Hope was renewed, but Mungo would not regain the form that placed him among the elite pitchers in the game. He would never again strike out as many as nine in a game.

Mungo would never win 20 games. His longtime pitching coach, Otto Miller, thinking that Mungo had more gas left in his tank, felt that he should have thrown his fastball more often in 1938. Mungo’s speed, in his prime, was as good as that of anyone, but he would use his curve when the count went to 3 and 2. On June 17, 1938, the Dodgers were facing Cincinnati and had staked Mungo to a lead going into the ninth inning in a game at Ebbets Field. Ernie Lombardi worked the count to 3 and 2 and walloped a homer to tie the game. The game went into extra innings and Ival Goodman’s homer off Mungo gave the visiting Reds the victory. The whole episode infuriated Larry MacPhail. He addressed Mungo directly, in front of the team, between games and angrily voiced his disappointment with his falling star. He committed himself toward cutting Mungo’s salary if his record, then standing at 2-7, did not improve. Mungo finished the season at 4-11, and his salary was cut from $15,000 to $5,000 prior to the 1939 season.

There was one more glimpse of what might have been. On June 30, 1938, Mungo pitched a one-hitter against the Boston Bees. Reflecting on his effort he stated, “The truth is my arm ached from the first inning to the last. I really wasn’t fast. Only occasionally, I would throw a fast one. But when I threw a curve, it was terrible. I thought it would pull the arm out by the roots.”

When manager Burleigh Grimes sent Mungo out for his next start, on July 4, the Giants needed only five batters to end Van’s day. Lou Chiozza greeted him with a home run to the right-field upper deck and three of the next four batters walked. Mungo retired only one batter before exiting. After he left, things really got out of hand. Each of the men he walked came home on a grand slam by Dick Bartell and the Giants went on to win, 16-1.
By this point, as noted in an article in the New York World Telegram, “It is no longer a question of whether Van wants to pitch for the Dodgers – it’s a question of whether the Dodgers want Mungo to pitch for them.”

Grimes was dispatched after the 1938 season. During Mungo’s final years with the Dodgers, when his talent had eroded and promise evolved into disappointment, his manager was Leo Durocher. Durocher said of Van Lingle Mungo that he “sounded like Edgar Bergen doing Mortimer Snerd (Bergen’s none-too-articulate dummy) from the bottom of a well.” Durocher first joined the Dodgers in 1938 when Mungo went 4-11, and was the player-manager during Mungo’s last three years with Brooklyn.

The annual hyperbole concerning Mungo’s prospects became part of the national baseball fabric. In December 1938, an Associated Press article proved that hope is eternal: “The Brooklyn baseball club has made the approach of a new year official by issuing its annual announcement that Van Lingle Mungo, the big fireball pitcher with the ailing arm and sultry disposition, will not be sold or traded ‘because we expect him to win 20 games for us next season.’ This statement, delivered solemnly about this time of year by each succeeding Brooklyn manager, is becoming part of the language, like the Gettysburg address.”

When he took over the managerial reins in 1939, Durocher had hopes that he could “handle” Mungo and see a return to form. On May 4 Durocher used Mungo in relief of Cletus Elwood “Boots” Poffenberger. Boots had not been able to last the first inning. Mungo came on with one run in, none out, and the bases filled with Cubs. He got out of the jam by striking out two and inducing Billy Herman to hit a popup, and he did not allow a run until the ninth inning, when he showed signs of tiring. At the plate, he went 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of RBIs as the Dodgers won the game, 6-2. Durocher inserted him in the rotation and by the end of May his record stood at 3-3 with a 2.79 ERA. After May, Mungo was largely ineffective and his season ended on July 23, when he broke his ankle sliding into second base while being used as a pinch-runner. His record for the season was 4-5 with a 3.26 ERA in only 77⅓ innings.

The Dodgers were impressed with Mungo’s efforts during the season, although he won only four games. He was used as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner, and even took a turn in left field. For the season, Mungo’s batting average was .345. After the season Larry MacPhail rewarded him with a bonus for his efforts.

When 1940 rolled around, Mungo came to camp determined to turn things around – again. His contract for the season called for a $7,500 salary and he was most definitely a team man. But as Tom Meany of the World Telegram noted, “It would be ironic if when the spirit was finally willing, the flesh, so strong all these years, suddenly was found weak.”
In 1940, Mungo’s role with the Dodgers was that of a relief pitcher. He was doing well in his new role. In his first four appearances, he pitched a total of 14 innings and did not yield a run. But his arm problems re-emerged and his season ended on June 24. His only decision was a win on June 2. He came into the game in the eighth inning with the Dodgers trailing 2-1. He was the beneficiary of two ninth-inning runs, and left the game with one out in the bottom of the ninth. The Dodgers held on to the lead to win, 3-2.

After Mungo was dropped from the Dodgers’ active list, it was decided that surgery was the best option to restore the strength to his arm. The Dodgers, under Durocher, were being transformed from the Daffiness Boys into a contender, and on July 1, 1940, Mungo underwent an operation to remove calcium deposits from his shoulder. He came to spring training in 1941 ready to pitch.

And then came a series of off-the-field incidents that would permanently cast a shadow over any of Mungo’s accomplishments. Always known for his lack of sobriety, he had sworn off alcohol and even elected to room with the quieter Whitlow Wyatt as the Dodgers trained in Havana. On Saturday, March 8, things took a definite downturn. Mungo was scheduled to pitch that day, but the game was rained out and he found himself with some idle time. Accompanied by Lady Ruth Vine, the mistress of ceremonies for the floor show at the Hotel Nacional, he went for some “malt and merriment” and became inebriated. Lady Ruth was not of nobility. She was from a Nashville family and her first name was really Lady.

After midnight, no longer in the company of Lady Ruth, Mungo found his way into the bar at the Hotel Nacional, and offered to buy a round of drinks for everyone there. He told the bartender not to “skip those two fellows up at the end of the bar. They look like a couple of regular guys.” Those regular guys, unfortunately for Van, were Durocher and coach Chuck Dressen. Durocher, not in the least amused by the incident, ordered Mungo to retreat to his room. The next day, Mungo went to the ballpark ready to pitch the opener of the March 9 doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. Larry MacPhail and Durocher had other ideas. They fined Mungo $200 for drinking and had him banished from training camp. Mungo was assigned to the Dodgers affiliate in the International League and ordered to depart Havana via a Sunday evening boat (along with the visiting Cleveland squad), and to join the Montreal Royals at their Macon, Georgia, training base.

But the Sunday night boat left Havana Harbor without Mungo. After leaving the ballpark that afternoon, he resumed his drinking and set about to destroy everything in sight. After he missed the 7:00 P.M. boat, arrangements were made to have him take a flight out of Havana the following morning. The Dodgers went so far as to have a detective keep an eye on Van as he had dinner and went back to his room to rest up for the 10:00 A.M. flight.
And then everything completely unraveled.

Sometime after midnight, Van was joined once again by Lady Ruth and she brought along “Cristina,” the female half of the dance duo of Gonzalo and Cristina. Cristina, prior to taking to a life in show business, had been the petite Miriam Morgan of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The trio took in the Havana nightlife.

By 3:00 A.M. on Monday, the drunken Mungo and the women had found their way to Room 273 of Hotel Nacional. This happened to be the room of Lady Ruth. Lady and Cristina were on one bed, and Van Lingle Mungo was in the other. Gonzalo was in Room 272. His real name was Francisco Callada Carreno, and in another life, he had been a matador. He was quite annoyed to discover that his wife, the aforementioned Cristina, was not occupying her proper bed. At 6:00 A. M., he made his way to the next room and, by his account, found his wife attired in a blue negligee. The former Dodger ace was in the room with the ladies and had on not a stitch of clothing. Fisticuffs ensued and Gonzalo came out on the short end. Van, who had done some prizefighting in his younger days, displayed his skills, despite being somewhat incapacitated by the alcohol he had consumed.

There were many versions of what happened. One version had Gonzalo wielding a machete in the direction of Mungo. Robert Sullivan in the New York Daily News wrote that the ladies contended that they were “doing a Samaritan act, seeking to sober Van up on milk and other health-giving elements full of Vitamin B-1. This work at last proved so tiring that the ladies, not knowing otherwise how to get rid of Van, dumped him into one of Lady’s beds. They fell into the other, knowing nothing more until the before mentioned dawn.”

At 10:00 A.M. that same day, Mungo, in the company of the ever vigilant Babe Hamberger, was deposited on an airplane and flown back to the United States. Some reports maintained that he had been hidden in a laundry cart so as to hasten his exit from the hotel without further incident.Gonzalo, Cristina, and Lady Ruth Vine were fired by the hotel. Gonzalo and Cristina proceeded to divorce court. Gonzalo sued the hotel for $100,000 for breaking up his act and Van Lingle Mungo $20,000 for breaking up his marriage.

In an exhibition outing on April 12, Mungo started and pitched an effective four innings against the Yankees, striking out six and allowing only two hits, and at the Dodgers Welcome Home dinner on April 14, manager Durocher said that “Mungo is the key to success of the club this year.” Despite this, Mungo’s Dodger days were effectively over. He made two brief appearances without a decision before being sent to Montreal on May 15.
Mungo was traded to the Giants’ American Association affiliate at Minneapolis before the 1942 season. An 11-3 record with the Millers earned him a call-up to the Polo Grounds and during the spring of 1943, Giants manager Mel Ott became afflicted with what sportswriter Joe Williams called the “Mungo Daze.” Mungo thought so highly of his manager that he named his second son Ernest Melvin Mungo.

No sooner had Ott been “exposed to the sight of the pitcher whamming his fastball into a warm-up catcher’s glove than (he) would develop that dreamy glint and predict that this was ‘the year, yes sir, this was the year old Van Lingle was going to win 20 games, for sure.’” Mungo posted a 3-7 record in 1943. He entered the Army early in 1944 and served stateside for nine months, missing the entire season. After nine months in the Army, he received a medical discharge on October 19, 1944.

Mungo returned to the Giants in 1945, once again sober and once again promising to make good – this time at age 33. He did not touch so much as a drop of alcohol in training camp, and he excelled in an exhibition performance against the Yankees in Atlantic City on April 1. This prompted Dick Young of the Daily News to state that “Van Lingle Mungo, who at one time might have inspired a little ditty called ‘Rum and Coca-Cola,’ is now working for the Giant dollah – but good. Van is bearing down with an unprecedented determination that augurs the long-promised brilliant season.”

With determination, sobriety, and a sinker pitch alleged to contain a certain amount of foreign substance, Mungo posted a 14-7 record in 1945 for the Giants. His 101 strikeouts were his most since 1937. He had an outside shot at the elusive 20-win plateau until he was sidelined by a shoulder separation on September 2. After his performance in 1945, he elected to hold out. He was re-signed by the Giants for $12,000, but during spring training, his sobriety, which had been a key to his 1945 success, was questioned by manager Ott. Mungo was suspended and subsequently released.

For his career, Mungo was 120-115 with an ERA of 3.47. The workhorse of the Brooklyn Dodgers led the league in games started on two occasions and in innings pitched on one occasion. During his time in Brooklyn, he did have control issues. Although he led the National League in strikeouts with 238 in 1936, he also led the league in walks with 118 that very same season. He also led the league in walks in 1932 and 1934.

Late in June 1946, Mungo signed on with Clinton (North Carolina) in the Class D Tobacco State League, where he recorded a 1-1 record in five appearances and batted a remarkable .471 (24-for-51). He became the team’s manager as well, but his season ended abruptly when he got into an altercation with opposing manager Gus Brittain of Wilmington in a game on August 13. Brittain had himself gotten into a serious argument with the umpires, and in short order, Mungo and Brittain were exchanging blows. The matter was referred to the league office and Mungo was suspended for the balance of the season on August 30. He returned as player-manager in 1947. He was no longer pitching, but as an outfielder and pinch-hitter, he batted .362 (46-for-127) with three homers in 33 games.

After his playing days, Mungo stayed in his childhood home of Pageland, where he owned a movie theater. He opened the Ball Theater to people of color. To accomplish this and still comply with the prevailing policy of segregation, he had a balcony built in the theater for the black audience, previously denied access to the facility. The other theater in town was closed to blacks. Mungo also continued his family’s involvement in cotton, owning a cotton gin, and continued to operate the retail store that had been started by his father.
One of his other businesses was a trucking concern. However, the company was not properly insured and when one of his drivers was involved in a major accident, the resulting lawsuits caused the business to fail.

Like many a player, Mungo would often be reunited with old teammates. On one occasion, in 1965, he was part of the Old-Timer’s festivities at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. In those days, the Mets, in only their fourth year of existence, had few of their own “old-timers” and called upon former Dodgers and Giants to appear. Mungo, garbed in Dodger Blue, served up a home run to Bobby Thomson. The next batter was Johnny Mize. The competitive juices were still flowing and Van’s first pitch was in the general direction of Mize’s back. Mize noted, “That’s the way he pitched.”

On May 17, 1974, Mungo was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
Mungo suffered a heart attack and died in Pageland on February 12, 1985, at the age of 73. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Pamela, who died of breast cancer in 1982 at the age of 48. His son, Van, died in 2002 from lung cancer and his wife, Eloise, passed away on October 8, 2002.

Mungo’s business enterprises foundered. The Ball movie theater was ruined by a fire in 1957, and the cotton gin and business fell victim to the changing economy. Nevertheless, Mungo forever remained the pride of Pageland, and if you drive through Chesterfield County, South Carolina, you may very well find yourself on the Van Lingle Mungo Boulevard.

Sources
Anderson, Dave, Pennant Races: Baseball at its Best (New York: Doubleday, 1994).
Durocher, Leo, with Ed Linn, Nice Guys Finish Last (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975).
Goldstein, Richard, Superstars and Screwballs: 100 Years of Brooklyn Baseball (New York: Dutton, 1991).
Hynd, Noel, The Giants of the Polo Grounds: The Glorious Times of Baseball’s New York Giants (New York: Doubleday, 1988).
Lee, Bill, and Jim Prime, Baseball Eccentrics: A Definitive Look at the Most Entertaining, Outrageous, and Unforgettable Characters in the Game (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2007).
Long, Robert, New York World Champions: 1933 (Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford, 2003).
Mazer, Bill, Bill Mazer’s Amazin Baseball Book (New York: Kensington Publishing Corporation, 1990).
Nestor, Bob A., Pride of Pageland (Taylors, South Carolina: Faith Printing Company, 2002).
Vitti, Jim, Brooklyn Dodgers in Cuba (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2011).

Newspaper Articles:
Drebinger, John, “Giants Lose to Dodgers and Now Trail Cardinals by Game in Pennant Race,” New York Times, September 30, 1939, S1.
Fraley, Oscar, “Slants on Sports,” Niagara Falls (New York) Gazette, September 9, 1961, 12.
Holmes, Tommy, “At 16, His Dad Tossed Him In to Twirl Game Down South – He Won,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 27, 1934, D-3.
Holmes, Tommy, “Brooklyn’s New Dazzy Vance,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 1935.
Keane, Albert W., “Four Hartford Hurlers Lose Control in Ninth and Senators Bow to New Haven,” Hartford Courant, April 28, 1931, 15.
Kerkhoff, Johnson D., “Jackie, Who Doesn’t Know He May Die, Can’t Go to Game, so Dodgers Ace Goes to Him,” New York Journal American, April 15, 1938, 1.
McCullough, Bill, “Yen for Curves Mungo’s Failing,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 7, 1939, 14.
McGowen, Roscoe, “Van Mungo Leaves Camp of Dodgers,” New York Times, March 11, 1941, 32.
Meany, Tom, “Bartell, Van Mungo Each Fine $25for Fight on Field,” New York World Telegram, April 16, 1936, 33.
Meany, Tom, “They’re at It Again: The Giants and the Dodgers: Another Round in the Forty-Year Brawl Opens Tuesday,” New York World Telegram Weekend Magazine Section, April 17, 1937, 1-3, 12.
Parker, Dan, “Pitcher Mungo’s ‘Woo-Pitching’ Woes From Down Havana Way,” New York Journal-American, May 25, 1941.
Sullivan, Robert, “The Ballplayer and the Ladies: Van Lingle Mungo Mingles, Bungles,” New York Daily News, March 30, 1941, 52-53.
Turkin, Hy, “Havana Havoc Brings Mungo Big Love Suit,” New York Daily News, March 12, 1941.
“Mungo Fined $200, Sent Back to U.S. for Buying 2 Too Many,” New York Herald Tribune, March 10, 1941, 21.

Others:
Ancestry.com
Baseball-Reference.com
FultonHistory.com
GoogleNewsSearch.com
NewspaperArchive.com

Sanders, Alex, “Cards Against the Wall,” documentary, 2012.
Van Lingle Mungo File, Baseball Hall of Fame library, Cooperstown, New York.
Interview with Ernest Melvin Mungo, March 12, 2014.