My Dad, The Brooklyn Dodger

On this first Father’s Day without my dad, I thought it would be the perfect time to brag about Dad’s baseball accomplishments!  Dad would never have told you these things, but if you started asking questions, he would have told you some great baseball stories.  Asking Dad’s friends about his baseball accomplishments; however, opened a floodgate of stories about what a great baseball player he was!

 

DadBaseball

Junior year 1945

 

Dad was always quite the athlete.  He was captain of his high school basketball team, but his first love was always baseball.

 

DadBasketballLetter

Dad’s basketball letter

 

Dad grew up with three brothers and a tomboy sister, and they spent every spare moment playing baseball with their cousins that lived nearby.  During recess at school they could also be found playing baseball even if it meant using an old board for a bat, and a ball that was falling apart.  Dad’s brother became very good at sewing covers back on their old baseballs because they couldn’t afford to buy new ones.

As dad grew up he excelled at baseball.  He had unusual skills as a right handed player, batting left handed.  In addition to his high school team, he played on local community teams.  Word spread about what good players he and his cousin Neal were, and a local scout came to watch them play.

BaseballTeam
 

In 1947 Dad and Neal were signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers to attend their training camp and try out for the team.  They caught a bus to High Point, North Carolina where they attended Spring Training with the Pulaski Counts Farm Team.  Dad was assigned number 13 and given a mismatched uniform with over-sized pants fit for someone twice his size.

The Pulaski Counts played in the Appalachian League from 1946 to 1950.  The Appalachian League was a rookie-class minor league made up of small-town teams in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and West Virginia.  They were considered a Class D league.  Larry Kinzer was the manager of the Pulaski Counts in 1947 when my dad attended training camp.  The team went 79-43 and finished in first place that year.

Dad played third base and his coach took a special liking to him.  The coach gave Dad extra hours of practice which just might have lead to the end of his major league chances.  A serious cut with a saw to Dad’s left hand the previous summer was still causing him great pain, especially with the additional time working with the coach.  Baseball gloves were pretty flimsy back then and provided minimal cushioning to the palm of the hand.

After just a few weeks, the old injury was causing Dad so much pain and interfering with his ability to play at that high level that he had to leave training camp.  His cousin Neal stayed for several more weeks until he was cut from the team.

Back home, Dad continued to rule third base on his local community teams for many more years.  Even today, his buddies still talk about what a great player he was.  He said that he didn’t mind not making the Brooklyn Dodgers Farm Team because if he had made the team, he probably would have moved away and might not have married my mom.

 

DadBaseballTeam
 

When visiting my mom this spring we dug out Dad’s old cleats and marveled at how much athletic shoes have changed since the 1940’s.

 

DadsCleats
 

We also found the baseball bat that he had made in his wood-working shop after he retired.  We can’t find his old black glove that my brother and I remember him using throughout our childhood, because at some point he replaced it with the glove below.  This tan glove brings back a flood of memories of Dad playing baseball with his four grandsons.

 

DadsBaseballEquipment
 

And that is exactly the legacy that Dad would want to be remembered by… playing baseball with his grandsons, and having time to watch them play in their Little League and high school games.

While researching this story, I reached out to my brother, nephews, sons, and mom for help.  Here are some of their memories…

 

Granddad always told us that the fields he played on didn’t have fences,
so if you wanted a home run you had to earn it!
Dave

I remember Granddaddy getting in the batting cage when I was about 12,
and hitting about 19 out of 20 pitches.
He also batted against Dave a little over 10 years ago,
and Dave hit him with a pitch.
Grandaddy made contact on a few of them.
Rob

When Granddad played in the orchard with Joseph and me when we were little,
he pitched underhanded to us.
Daniel

I received a full sized bat made by Granddad in 2006
and it says “for Robby from Goodabby” on it…

Dave and I also got little bats for our children last year, also dated 2006…
Mine says “Hubble Heir” on it.
Rob

During your dad’s 1952 season, I went to all of his games but one,
and my sister Ann and brother Bill went to many of your dad’s games with me.
I just read in my old diary that on June 29, 1952 he hit a home run!
Mom

 

Baseball was usually the sport of choice at my grandmother’s summer cookouts, and you can bet that my dad was out there playing with the little ones.  It didn’t matter if his grandsons, nieces, or nephews were playing, he was always there to show them how to swing the bat or throw the ball.

 

DadDaveBaseball

Dad with Dave in 1987

RobBaseball

Rob making contact with a ball pitched by Dad in 1987

DadPitchingBaseball

Dad pitching to the kids in 1995

DanielBaseball

Daniel swinging at his granddaddy’s pitch in 1995

DadJosephBaseball

Dad and Joseph playing cul-de-sac baseball in 1997

 

Even though Dad had an opportunity to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was a lifelong Yankees fan.  We had lots of fun smack talking when my Natty’s played his Yankees, but he usually got the last laugh…

 

  • Questions:
  • What’s your favorite story about a parent or grandparent?
  • What games does your family enjoying playing at summer barbecues?
  • Who’s your favorite baseball team?

12 replies on “My Dad, The Brooklyn Dodger”

  1. Amy says:

    Awe, what a great story, Deb! Thanks for sharing and hugs to you. Hope your day yesterday was good, despite the circumstances.

  2. Great story, thanks for sharing. Such a great way to celebrate your dad on father’s day.

    My favorite memories usually revolve around my grandma, such a wonderful loving woman. Still miss her to this day.

    Our youngest plays baseball so that is a bbq event along with some basketball. Favorite team…ATLANTA BRAVES!!
    The running schlub recently posted…Father’s Day Beer Run Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

  3. What great memories! I love this post. It was really cool reading about his baseball career.
    Courtney @ Don’t Blink. Just Run. recently posted…Gaspee Days 5K Race RecapMy Profile

  4. Kim says:

    What a great tribute to your dad – so cool that he played on the Dodger farm team!!!
    Kim recently posted…Living in Fear Isn’t the AnswerMy Profile

  5. jan says:

    What a cool story!! All of the old artifacts & memories are definitely a family treasure & a story to pass down for generations!
    jan recently posted…Anatomy for RunnersMy Profile

    • Deb Runs says:

      Thanks, Jan. My brother and I surely wish we could find Dad’s old black glove, but I’m sure he or Mom tossed it years ago. I was thrilled when Mom pulled out Dad’s cleats. I had no idea they had kept them until early this spring

  6. Meagan says:

    Such a great story! I really enjoyed reading more about your dad. I guess it’s a good thing he moved back home and didn’t get picked up by the Dodgers, or how would he ever have married your mom!? :) I’m glad you had some happy memories and stories to think about on what must have been another tough day since your dad passed away. I love those pictures of him playing with the kids!
    Meagan recently posted…Varmint 1/2 Marathon – Race ReportMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge