4-F Gillenwater Got His Chance in ‘45

 

Carden Gillenwater was one of baseball’s top defensive outfielders in 1945.

By Glen Sparks

Hod Lisenbee beaned Carden Gillenwater with a pitch in the minor leagues. That knock in the noggin may have provided Gillenwater with his big chance.

The U.S. Selective Service folks declared Gillenwater 4-F, or unfit for service, during World War II. Supposedly, the beaning had led to permanent hearing loss for the outfielder. Another story is that Gillenwater had suffered a serious head injury while making a catch during an exhibition game. Whatever the real reason, he could keep playing baseball. The Army didn’t want him.

Gillenwater, born May 13, 1917, in the farming town of Riceville, Tenn., spent parts of five seasons in the majors (1940, 1943, 1945, 1946 and 1948). He accumulated 1,004 at-bats; 517 of them in 1945. Gillenwater batted .260 lifetime with a .359 on-base percentage. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 114.

The St. Louis Cardinals had signed Gillenwater out of Knoxville High School in Tennessee. Branch Rickey Jr., whose genius father ran the Cardinals, saw Gillenwater playing summer ball and invited him to a tryout camp. Out of the approximately 1,500 young men who hurled fastballs and took their cuts, only Gillenwater and one other player came home with a contract to play pro ball.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Gillenwater reported to the Class D Kinston, North Carolina, Eagles in the spring of 1937. There, he batted .301 and knocked 14 home runs. Impressed, the Cardinals promoted him to the Double-A Rochester, New York, Red Wings of the International League. Gillenwater spent a few more seasons in the minors, including one stop with the New Orleans Pelicans. A writer in the Big Easy saw Gillenwater this way: “(He) covers center field like a circus tent. He’s as fast an antelope and can go far back to snag long flies.”

In late 1940, St. Louis called up Gillenwater to the big club. He came to bat 25 times and hit safely only four times. Injuries and a lack of power kept Gillenwater in the minor leagues for the next few years.  The disappointed Cardinals sold their one-time hot prospect to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943. Gillenwater went 3-for-17 in his eight games with Brooklyn. So far, he was 7-for-42 (.167) in the majors.

More and more ballplayers were volunteering for the military or getting the call from Uncle Sam. Stars such as Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams, and Warren Spahn, did their duty. Feller signed up as soon as heard the news about the Japanese bombing at Pearl Harbor. Greenberg enlisted Dec. 9. As the battles raged on, teams had to think of creative ways to fill their rosters. It wasn’t easy. More than 4,000 minor leagues also went to war.

Brooklyn sold Gillenwater to the Boston Braves following the 1944 season. Gilly promptly won the starting job in center field. Over 144 games in 1945, he hit .288 (.379 on-base percentage) with seven homers and 72 RBI. But, Gillenwater did an even better job on defense. He led the National League in putouts (451), assists (24) and range factor (3.43).

World War II ended for the United States on V-E Day, May 7, 1945. Fighting in the Pacific concluded a few months later, on V-J Day, Sept. 2, 1945. Returning service men, including lots of ballplayers, looked forward to life—and their jobs–back in the States.

Gillenwater played in just 99 games in 1946 and hit only .228 in 224 at-bats. He was a minor leaguer once again in 1947 and got into 77 games with the Washington Senators in ’48, hitting .244. After a few more seasons of riding buses from one small town to another, Gillenwater retired. He and his wife, Marian, eventually moved to Clearwater, Florida, and opened some retail fabric stories.

Carden Edison Gillwater died May 10, 2000, from the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) just three days away from his 83rd birthday. Marian Gillwater said this of her husband: “It didn’t matter if it was marbles, golf, tennis, or baseball, sports was all he knew. He was a great person, my best friend. Just a really good guy who loved sports.”

Sources:

Carden Gillenwater SABR bio

Carden Gillenwater on baseball-reference.com

Baseball in World War II

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Babe Ruth Started Something Big on May 6, 1915

Babe Ruth played for the Boston Red Sox from 1914-19.

By Glen Sparks

About 50 ballplayers, along with a handful of coaches, writers and 5,000 or so fans, were there at the start. They gathered at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan on May 6, 1915, the day that a husky, hard-throwing pitcher named George “Babe” Ruth hit his first home run in the major leagues.

Surely no one then could have imagined then that this 20-year-old, former “incorrigible” kid from the tough waterfront streets of Baltimore, would wallop 713 more homers before retiring 20 years later as baseball’s fabled Sultan of Swat, the greatest home-run hitter of them all.

He didn’t even play every day. The minor-league Baltimore Orioles had signed Ruth as a pitcher in 1913. Young Ruth learned the game while living at the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. George Sr. had told the local courts that his son was “incorrigible.” The boy was drinking too much beer at the family’s tavern, chewing too much tobacco and stealing money from the till.

Brother Matthias served as athletic director and head disciplinarian at St. Mary’s. He stood 6-feet-7-inches and was powerfully built, sort of the Frank Howard of his day. He hit flyballs that amazed Ruth and the other boys. Ruth duplicated Brother Matthias’ uppercut swing.

But, as mentioned, the Orioles liked Ruth as a pitcher. The left-hander even wowed some major-league squads during several exhibition games in South Carolina. Jack Dunn, the Orioles’ owner and manager, was short of cash. He sold Ruth to the Red Sox.

The skinny-legged, barrel-chested Ruth—one writer decided that the young player was “built like a bale of cotton”—made his major-league debut in late 1914. He went 2-for-10 with a single and a double at the plate. On the mound, he pitched 23 innings, compiled a 2-1 won-loss record and posted a 3.91 ERA. He walked seven and struck out three.

Ruth entered the action May 6 with a 1-0 record and a 5.02 ERA in two starts and three appearances. The Red Sox were playing the New York Yankees, Ruth’s future team and the franchise that he would establish as the game’s greatest. The New York Times already liked him. One reporter there had decided that “the big left-handed pitcher, Babe Ruth, was all that a pitcher is supposed to be, and some more.” At the plate, Ruth was 2-for-7, batting .286.

The Red Sox came into the game with a 7-6 record, good for fourth place in the American League, four games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers (15-6).  The Yankees (10-5) were in second place, two games behind Detroit.  The Red Sox had finished 91-62 in 1914, in second place. The Philadelphia A’s won the American League pennant with a record of 99-53. The Yanks muddled though a 70-84 season, good for seventh place.

New York still had not won a pennant. Boston was trying to win its fourth, and its first since 1912. Ruth batted ninth in the order, the customary spot for pitchers.  On the mound this historic day, he was matched against right-hander Jack Warhop. An eight-year veteran, Warhop came into the game with an 0-2 mark and a 6.19 ERA.

After two scoreless innings, Ruth led off the third inning for Boston. The pitcher slammed a Warhop pitch far into the right-field stands. The hit surely drew some “oohs” and “ah’s” from anyone who saw it. Players did not hit many home runs in the Deadball Era, and they didn’t crush them like Ruth just did. (Frank “Home Run” Baker of the A’s led the A.L. in home runs in 1914 with nine. A.L. teams hit just 160 total homers, or an average of just 20 per team.)

This was a tape-measure job slammed before that term was ever coined. Fans, players, coaches, and reporters just did not see this type of round-tripper. According to one reporter, Ruth lifted Warhop’s offering “with no apparent effort.” Ruth, for the record, said he connected on a “rise ball.”

The Red Sox and Ruth ended up losing 4-3 in 13 innings. The Babe went the whole way for Boston and pitched a solid game before tiring at the end. Luther “Doc” Cook knocked in the winning run. The magnificently named Edwin “Cy” Pieh of Waunakee, Wisconsin, got credit for the win.

Ruth hit three more home runs in 1915 in 92 at-bats and led the team. Dick Hobitzell (399 at-bats), Harry Hooper (566 at-bats) and Duffy Lewis (557 at-bats) tied for second with two apiece. Boston ended up winning the pennant with a 101-50 record. The Yankees finished 69-83, 32 ½ games out of first. The Red Sox beat the N.L. champion Philadelphia Phillies in five games to win the World Series.

Ruth’s power display did not knock him off the pitching mound for another couple of seasons. He did not begin playing every day until 1918. He topped with 11 homers in just 317 at-bats that year and led the circuit again in 1919 with 29. Boston sold Ruth to the Yankees before the 1920 campaign. Ten more home-run titles followed, including four seasons of more than 50.

Dizzy Dean, the Hall of Fame pitcher and Hall of Fame raconteur, said this about Ruth: “No one hit home runs the way Babe (Ruth) did. They were something special. They were like homing pigeons. The ball would leave the bat, pause briefly, suddenly gain its bearings, then take off for the stands.”

The Babe Ruth story did not begin on May 6, 1915, of course. There were far too many interesting twists and turns in his oversized life before that one day at the Polo Grounds.  What the game’s future Big Bam did in the top of the third inning, though, was to offer the audience an introduction to the long-ball heroics to come.

Dodgers’ Wills Put the Heat on Opposing Teams

Maury Wills spent 8 1/2 seasons in the minors before getting a call to the big leagues.

By Glen Sparks

Harsh sunshine beat down on the Los Angeles Coliseum floor.

Two men, drenched in sweat by the end, practiced baseball drills on a day when L.A. temperatures soared to 100 degrees.  Dodgers coach Pete Reiser, the former Brooklyn phenom, pitched balls for hours to 27-year-old shortstop Maury Wills. Reiser and Wills kept this going for a month. It was the spring of 1960.

“You can’t quit,” Reiser said over and over to his pupil. “You have to keep at it. These things don’t come overnight.”

“Overnight.” What did Wills think about that? … Overnight? … Ever?

The son of a Baptist minister and one of 13 children, Maurice Morning Wills grew up in Washington, D.C. Undersized as an athlete, he didn’t care. That just made him work harder. He played football, basketball and baseball at Cardozo High School.

The Brooklyn Dodgers signed Wills to a contract in the fall of 1950 and assigned him to the Hornell, New York, Dodgers of the Class D Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League. He was a long way from the majors.

Wills batted about .280 and stole 54 bases in his rookie season as a professional baseball player. The next season, he hit .300 and stole 54 bases again, this time for the Santa Barbara, California, Dodgers of the California League. “The Dodgers had tabbed me as a definite major-league prospect,” Willis wrote in his 1963 book It Pays to Steal, co-written with Steve Gardner.

The Dodgers promoted Wills to the Class A Pueblo, Colorado, Dodgers of the Western League and, the following year, to the AA Ft. Worth, Texas, Cats in the Texas League. The prospect became suspect in tumbleweed country. Halfway through the season, his batting average stood at just .220, and he began spending more and more time on the bench.

Those struggles earned Wills a trip back to Pueblo. He hit .302 and stole 34 bases in his return engagement. Next stop, Washington state. First, Wills reported to the Seattle Rainers of the Pacific Coast League, and then to the Spokane, Indians, also of the PCL.

Bobby Bragan managed Spokane. He played nine years in the majors (1940-48), for the Philadelphia Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers. The infielder-catcher was known for clashing with Dodgers executive Branch Rickey when Rickey promoted Jackie Robinson and broke baseball’s color barrier. Bragan, though, quickly changed his mind about Robinson.  “After just one road trip, I saw the quality of Jackie the man and the player,” Bragan told mlb.com in 2005.

Every day, Bragan helped Wills. He also suggested that the natural right-handed batter turn himself into a switch hitter. The idea, of course, was that the speedy player would be that much closer to first base if he could hit left-handed. Initially, Wills brushed off the idea. “I’m too old to learn,” said Wills, who was 25.

Bragan didn’t buy the argument. “You’re never too old to learn,” he insisted. Wills dutifully stepped into the batting cage and began hitting left-handed in 1958. By June of 1959, he was batting .313, and the Dodgers promoted him to the big club. At least one L.A. newspaper offered the rookie a less-than-enthusiastic greeting. The headline read: “Maury Wills … Who are They Kidding?”

But, Wills did OK. He hit .260 in 83 games and fielded well enough at shortstop. The following season, though, he was barely above .200 after several weeks of play. Sometimes, Dodgers manager Walt Alston pinch hit for Wills as early as the fourth inning. “What am I going to do?” Wills asked Reiser after one of many disappointing days.

“Don’t worry,” Reiser said. “Meet me here before practice tomorrow, two hours early, and I’ll do what I can.”

Reiser had once been a hot prospect himself. Coaches and writers predicted that the St. Louis native would turn into a superstar. He played hard and, sometimes, recklessly. He crashed into walls and couldn’t stay healthy. Reiser also missed three prime years due to his service in World War II. Thought of as a future Hall of Famer by some, Reiser played 10 seasons in the big leagues and in only 861 games.

Hired by the Dodgers as a coach, Reiser made his name as an enthusiastic teacher. Wills listened.  By season’s end in 1960, he had hiked his average to .295 and led the National League in stolen bases with 52. He also topped the N.L. in steals the next year, and in 1962, he enjoyed his career year.

Wills batted .299, collected 208 hits, and scored 130 runs. He also broke a major-league record with 104 steals, breaking Ty Cobb’s mark of 96 set in 1915.  Writers awarded Wills with an MVP trophy. The lean, lithe shortstop shared the credit with his teachers.

“I’ll never forget what Pete Reiser and Bobby Bragan did for me,” Wills said, probably more than once.

He dedicated It Pays to Steal, published in 1963, to Reiser. Bragan wrote the book’s forward. “It was in Maury Wills to become a star from the start,” Bragan wrote. “He is the man who made larceny pay.”

Wills spent 14 seasons (1959-72) in the majors, 12 of them (59-66, 69-72) with the Dodgers.  He batted .281 lifetime and collected 2,134 hits.  Most famously, he swiped 586 bases and led the league in that category six times. Following his retirement, Wills spent some time as a broadcaster for NBC. He served a mostly disastrous stint as manager of the Seattle Mariners (1980-81) and battled drug addiction for years.

Former Dodgers pitcher and alcoholic Don Newcombe helped Wills get sober in 1989. Since then, Wills has spent much of his time teaching Dodgers players about the art of base running. He also wrote a frank autobiography, On the Run: The Never Dull and Often Shocking Life of Maury Wills.

“When I came to the ballpark, my mind was clear,” Wills wrote in On the Run. “Nothing could disturb me. If there was anything that distracted me from my playing, I would eliminate it from my life, even if meant my family. I really believed that.”

Sources:

Baseball’s Most Valuable Players by George Vescey

It Pays to Steal by Maury Wills and Steve Gardner

On the Run: The Never Dull and Often Shocking Life of Maury Wills by Maury Wills and Michael

Celizic

Maury Wills – Baseball-Reference.com

Pirates’ Bigbee was a Big Hit for the Pirates

Carson “Skeeter” Bigbee

By Glen Sparks

He was Carson “Skeeter” Bigbee of Linn County, Oregon, born on March 31, 1895. He played 11 seasons in the big leagues, all of them with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was the younger brother of Lyle Bigbee, who also played ball and who met a tragic end.

Skeeter Bigbee, grew up in a lumber town. His dad, Claiborne Bigbee, from Missouri, played baseball and supposedly hurled the first curveball “in this section of the state,” per the July 24, 1912, edition of the Portland Oregonian. Skeeter’s mom, Callie (Morris) Bigbee, descended from a family of pioneers. Her dad and grandfather left Illinois in 1850 to go west via the Oregon Trail. Callie’s mom crossed the country in 1851, surviving an Indian attack en route to the coast.

Carson, along with Lyle and oldest brother Morris, starred at Albany, Oregon, High School.  The three also played sports at the University of Oregon. At one point, the Ducks’ lineup included all three Bigbee men—Morris at second base, Lyle on the mound, and Carson at shortstop.

Carson and Lyle signed with the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League in early 1916. Team manager Walt McCredle, though, didn’t like what he saw from either of them. He released both after just a short time to the Tacoma, Washington, Tigers of the Class B Northwest League. Carson’s career took off.  He batted .340, good enough for the Pirates, who signed him for $5,000 and called him up to the big club.

As a rookie, Bigbee appeared in 43 games and batted .285 with a .314 on-base percentage. The following season, he set a Major League record.

The Pirates were playing the Brooklyn Robins (the forerunner of the Dodgers) on Aug. 22, 1917.  Wilbur Connor started on the mound for Pittsburgh, Leon Cadore for Brooklyn. Neither lasted very long. Cooper went five innings, Cadore stayed around for seven. The game, though, took 22 innings. The Robins, though, won 6-5. Bigbee came to bat 11 times, more than anyone ever up to that point.  He led all batters with six hits and drove in two runs. (Bigbee shares the record today for at-bats in an extra-inning game with 13 other players.)

Baseball people and sportswriters called him “Skeeter” because he liked to steal bases. Bigbee swiped 182 bags in his career, including a career-high of 31 in 1919 and 1920.

“Skeeter” appeared in just one World Series, in 1925, against the Washington Senators. Near the end of his career, he came to bat just three times and managed only one hit.  It was a big hit, though. He knocked a game-tying double in the eighth inning of Game 7 against the great Walter Johnson.  Bigbee’s two-base hit drove in Earl Smith to make the score 7-7. Pittsburgh won the game 9-7, and the Series.

The right-handed batter retired in 1926 with 17 home runs over his 11 seasons, playing much of his career during the deadball era. He hit retired .287 lifetime with an on-base percentage of .345, along with 139 doubles and 75 triples. Bigbee topped the 200-hit mark in 1921 and 1922.

Lyle Bigbee, meanwhile, played two seasons in the majors. He went 0-3 with an 8.00 ERA over 45 innings as a Philadelphia Athletic in 1920. The following year, he pitched for the Pirates as a teammate of Carson’s. Lyle got into just five game and pitched only eight innings. He gave up a lone run. The right-hander later spent time in minor-league ball, with the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association and the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, among other teams.

Lyle’s pro baseball ended at the age of 30.  After that, he drifted through towns all over the west, from Bend, Oregon, to Kelso, Washington, to Casper, Wyoming, and to Santa Rita, New Mexico. He found a job as a night watchman at a copper mine in Santa Rita.  He committed suicide in Portland on August 4, 1942, at the age of 48.

Carson Bigbee did some managing after his playing career ended, in the All-American Girls Baseball League. Founded in 1943 by Chicago Cubs owner and chewing gum magnate Phillip K Wrigley, the AAGPBL lasted until 1955. Most teams were located in smaller Midwest cities.

Bigbee led the Springfield, Illinois, Sallies in 1948 and the Muskegon, Michigan, Lassies in 1949. A biography of Bigbee on an AAGPBL historical site reports that the former major league was skeptical at first about women’s baseball.  He “later became the game’s biggest booster as he managed the Springfield Sallies. He had a fine competitive spirit and a pleasing personality made him popular with both players and managers throughout the League.”

“Skeeter” Bigbee died on Oct. 17, 1964, in Portland, Oregon. He was 69 years old. He is buried at the Willamette National Cemetery. Morris Bigbee passed away on May 29, 1978, in Portland, at the age of 88.

Sources:

Carson Bigbee career statistics on baseball-reference.com

AAGPBL article on Carson Bigbee

Waterloo Democrat-Herald

1925 World Series, Washington Senators vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, Game 7

Lyle Bigbee SABR bio

 

 

 

 

Monday Saves the Flag; The Bird Flies High

Mark Fidrych compiled a 19-9 won-loss mark during his magical year for the Tigers in 1976.

Mark Fidrych compiled a 19-9 won-loss mark during his magical year for the Tigers in 1976.

Look back at the 1976 MLB season.

By Glen Sparks

April 2 – The Oakland A’s trade star players Reggie Jackson Ken Holtzman, plus minor-league pitcher Bill Von Bommell, to the Baltimore Orioles for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell.

April 15 – A newly remodeled Yankee Stadium with 52,613 fans in attendance. Former Yankee Bob Shawkey, winner of the 1923 opener, throws out the first pitch. The Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins 11-4.

April 25 – Chicago Cubs outfielder Rick Monday sprints over to grab an American flag that two men were about to set fire to at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers win the game 5-4 in 10 innings. The following day, the Illinois legislature proclaims May 4 as Rick Monday Day in the Prairie state.

May 15 – The Detroit Tigers’ Mark “The Bird” Fidrych throws a complete game in his major league start, beating the Cleveland Indians 2-1. He carries a no-hitter through six innings, gives up just two hits total and, yes, talks to the ball.

May 29 – Houston Astros pitcher Joe Niekro hits the only home runs in his 22-year big-league career. The victim? Phil Niekro, Joe’s brother. The seventh-inning homer tied the game, and the Astros go on to win 4-3.

June 4 – Tom Seaver and the New York Mets blank the Los Angeles Dodgers 11-0. The Mets get plenty of offense from slugger Dave Kingman, who pounds three home runs.

July 20 – Hank Aaron, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, hits the 755th and final home run his career. He smashes it of Dick Drago of the California Angles.

Sept. 10 – California Angels fireballer Nolan Ryan strikes out 18 Chicago White Sox and wins 3-2 at Comiskey Park.

Sept. 28 – Dodgers manager Walt Alston steps down after 23 seasons at the helm. “Smokey” led his teams to six National League pennants and four World Series titles. His replacement is third-base coach LaSorda.

Oct. 21 – The Cincinnati Reds wrap up their second straight World Series title by sweeping the New York Yankees in four games. The Series MVP is Johnny Bench, who bats .533 (8-for-15) with two home runs and six RBI.

What Year Did That Happen?

What year did Bob Feller hurl his opening-day no-hitter?

What year did Bob Feller hurl his opening-day no-hitter?

By Glen Sparks

The idea behind this quiz is simple. I provide an episode in baseball history. You just need to provide the year that it happened. Bonus points if you guess the correct month and day. The answers are at the bottom. Good luck

  1. Kansas City A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris plays all nine positions in a game against the California Angels at K.C.’s Municipal Stadium

2. While chasing a fly ball at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., Babe Ruth runs into a wall of concrete and knocks himself out cold.

3. St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial mashes five home runs and adds a single during a doubleheader against the New York Giants at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Stan the Man drives in nine runs.

4. In one of baseball’s greatest tragedies, New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays throws a pitch at the Polo Grounds that hits Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman in the head. Chapman later dies from his injuries.

5. The San Francisco Giants belt five home runs and score 12 runs in the ninth inning to pummel the Cincinnati Reds, 14-0, at Crosley Field.

6. Cleveland Indians ace Bob Feller tosses an opening-day no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.

7. The New York Giants’ Rube Marquard beats Babe Adams and the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 in a 21-inning game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Both pitchers go the distance.

8. Dodger Stadium Pirates slugger Willie Stargell hits a ball that clears Dodger Stadium. He is the first player to do that.

9. Willie Mays hits career home run No. 500 at Houston’s Astrodome.

10. Wrigley Field/Fenway Park Brothers Cubs pitchers Rick Reuschel and Paul Reuschel combine to throw a shutout at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

 

1965 (Sept. 8)

1924 (July 5)

1954 (May 2)

1920 (Aug. 16)

1961 (Aug. 23)

1940 (April 16)

1914 (July 17)

1969 (Aug. 6) … He does it again on May 8, 1973

1965 (Sept. 13)

1975 (Aug. 21)

Faszholz Soared High with the Red Wings

Jack Faszholz

Jack Faszholz

By Glen Sparks

Jack Faszholz enjoyed just a simple cup of coffee, as the expression goes, in the major leagues. He pitched in four games and 11 2/3 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953. The right-hander started one game and relieved in three others.

His entire professional baseball career, though, lasted from 1944 through 1956. Faszholz spent much of that time with the Rochester Red Wings of the International League. He won 80 games as a Red Wing, more than anyone before or since. All told, Faszholz won 128 professional games, all in the minors. He went 0-0 with a 6.94 during his short tenure with the Cardinals. He did, however, strike out a young Mickey Mantle during spring training in 1955.

Born April 11, 1927, in St. Louis, Faszholz primarily grew up in Seattle and Berkeley, Calif. He starred on the local sandlots and was signed by the Boston Red Sox as a high school junior in 1944. The Cardinals drafted him in 1949.

During the offseason, Faszholz attended classes at the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod seminary in St. Louis. Not surprisingly, writers and teammates began calling him the Preacher. Fellow players also learned of Faszholz’ religious studies. With that in mind, here is an excerpt from my bio on Faszholz, recently published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR):

His fastball was rarely blazing. “I think some people surmised that I was getting some help from above,” he says. Red Wings manager Harry “The Hat” Walker, maybe with a sense of superstition, liked to pitch Faszholz on the Sabbath. He reasoned, Faszholz said, “You can’t beat the Preacher on Sundays.”

The Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s top farm team, couldn’t defeat Faszholz on Sunday or almost any other day in 1954. Faszholz said he prevailed against the Royals five or six times that season. He recalled one particular at-bat that thoroughly frustrated International League slugger Glenn “Rocky” Nelson.

The left-handed hitter walked to the plate late in one game with Montreal trailing. Faszholz got behind in the count and didn’t want to surrender a walk. He grooved a pitch to Nelson, who hit a sharp liner to Red Wings first baseman Tom Alston. The hot shot ricocheted off the top of Alston’s glove and right into the glove of second baseman Lou Ortiz for an out. Moments later, Faszholz heard a ruckus coming from the Montreal dugout. Bats were flying, profanity filled the air. Suddenly, Nelson yelled out toward Faszholz, “You’re sure making a believer out of me.”

Following his retirement as a player, Faszholz and his family moved to St. Louis. Jack served several years as baseball coach and athletic director at Lutheran South High School. Later, he worked in similar roles at Concordia University Texas in Austin. Now 89 years old, Faszholz remains a faithful member of Salem Lutheran Church in Affton. He still follows the game he loves and still enjoys taking about those great games from days gone by. Just ask him about the time he fanned Jimmie Foxx.

You can read my entire bio of Faszholz by clicking here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/53250da7