Pee Wee Reese

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Pee Wee Reese
1954 Bowman Pee Wee Reese.jpg
Reese displayed in a trading card by the Bowman Gum Company, 1954
Shortstop
Born:(1918-07-23)July 23, 1918
Ekron, Kentucky
Died: August 14, 1999(1999-08-14) (aged 81)
Louisville, Kentucky
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
April 23, 1940, for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
September 26, 1958, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB statistics
Batting average .269
Hits 2,170
Home runs 126
Runs batted in 885
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg
Induction1984
VoteVeteran's Committee

Harold Peter Henry "Pee Wee" Reese (July 23, 1918 – August 14, 1999) was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball as a shortstop for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1940 to 1958. [1] A ten-time All Star, Reese contributed to seven National League championships for the Dodgers and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. Reese is also famous for his support of his teammate Jackie Robinson, the first modern African American player in the major leagues, especially in Robinson's difficult first years.

Professional baseball is played in leagues throughout the world. In these leagues and associated farm teams, baseball players are selected for their talents and are paid to play for a specific team or club system.

Baseball team sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901, respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the Major League clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

Contents

Early life

Reese's nickname originated in his childhood, as he was a champion marbles player (a "pee wee" is a small marble). Reese was born in Ekron, Meade County, Kentucky, and raised there until he was nearly eight years old, when his family moved to racially segregated Louisville. In high school, Reese was so small that he did not play baseball until his senior year, at which time he weighed only 120 pounds and played just six games as a second baseman. [2] He graduated from duPont Manual High School in 1935.[ citation needed ] He worked as a cable splicer for the Louisville phone company, only playing amateur baseball in a church league. When Reese's team reached the league championship, the minor league Louisville Colonels allowed them to play the championship game on their field. Reese impressed Colonels owner Cap Neal, who signed him to a contract for a $200 bonus. [2] While playing for the Colonels, he was affectionately referred to by his teammates as "The Little Colonel." [3]

Ekron, Kentucky City in Kentucky, United States

Ekron is a home rule-class city in Meade County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 170 at the 2000 census.

Meade County, Kentucky County in the United States

Meade County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of the 2010 census, the population was 28,602. Its county seat is Brandenburg. The county was founded December 17, 1823, and named for Captain James M. Meade, who was killed in action at the Battle of River Raisin during the War of 1812.

Racial segregation separation of humans

Racial segregation is the systemic separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, riding on a bus, or in the rental or purchase of a home or of hotel rooms. Segregation is defined by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance as "the act by which a person separates other persons on the basis of one of the enumerated grounds without an objective and reasonable justification, in conformity with the proposed definition of discrimination. As a result, the voluntary act of separating oneself from other people on the basis of one of the enumerated grounds does not constitute segregation". According to the UN Forum on Minority Issues, "The creation and development of classes and schools providing education in minority languages should not be considered impermissible segregation, if the assignment to such classes and schools is of a voluntary nature".

Baseball career

By 1938, Reese was the Colonels' regular shortstop and one of the top prospects in the minors, and so impressed Boston Red Sox farm director Billy Evans that he recommended the Red Sox buy the team. Evans and owner Tom Yawkey both knew that the Red Sox' regular shortstop, Joe Cronin, was nearing the end of his career. [2] [4]

Boston Red Sox Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

The Boston Red Sox are an American professional baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) East division. The Red Sox have won nine World Series championships, tied for the third-most of any MLB team, and they have played in 13. Their most recent appearance and win was in 2018. In addition, they won the 1904 American League pennant, but were not able to defend their 1903 World Series championship when the New York Giants refused to participate in the 1904 World Series. Founded in 1901 as one of the American League's eight charter franchises, the Red Sox' home ballpark has been Fenway Park since 1912. The "Red Sox" name was chosen by the team owner, John I. Taylor, circa 1908, following the lead of previous teams that had been known as the "Boston Red Stockings", including the forerunner of the Atlanta Braves.

Billy Evans American baseball umpire

William George Evans, nicknamed "The Boy Umpire", was an American umpire in Major League Baseball who worked in the American League from 1906 to 1927. He became, at age 22, the youngest umpire in major league history, and later became the youngest to officiate in the World Series at age 25.

Tom Yawkey major league baseball executive

Thomas Austin Yawkey, born Thomas Yawkey Austin, was an American industrialist and Major League Baseball executive. Born in Detroit, Yawkey became president of the Boston Red Sox in 1933 and was the sole owner of the team for 44 seasons, longer than anyone else in baseball history. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. Yawkey's racism and resistance to baseball's integration have led the modern day Red Sox to distance themselves from his legacy.

However, Cronin was also the Red Sox' manager, and still thought of himself as a regular shortstop. When Yawkey sent Cronin to Louisville to scout Reese, Cronin realized that he was scouting his own replacement. Cronin deliberately downplayed Reese's talent and suggested Reese be traded. It took a while to find a buyer, since the other teams assumed something had to be wrong with Reese if the Red Sox wanted to get rid of him. However, on July 18, 1939, Reese was sent to Brooklyn for $35,000 and four players to be named later. This trade is now considered one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history. As it turned out, Cronin was only a part-time player after 1941. [4]

Reese stayed in Louisville for the rest of the 1939 season, and was called up to Brooklyn in time for the 1940 season. In an ironic twist, he walked into a situation where his manager was also the regular shortstop—in this case, Leo Durocher. Unlike Cronin, however, Durocher was willing to give up his spot in the lineup to Reese.

The 1940 Brooklyn Dodgers finished the season in second place. It was their best finish in 16 years.

Leo Durocher American baseball player and coach

Leo Ernest Durocher, nicknamed Leo the Lip and Lippy, was an American professional baseball player, manager and coach. He played in Major League Baseball as an infielder. Upon his retirement, he ranked fifth all-time among managers with 2,009 career victories, second only to John McGraw in National League history. Durocher still ranks tenth in career wins by a manager. A controversial and outspoken character, Durocher had a stormy career dogged by clashes with authority, the baseball commissioner, umpires, and the press.

Early playing career

Reese with the Dodgers. Pee wee reese exhibits.jpg
Reese with the Dodgers.

Reese's rookie season in 1940 was curtailed by a broken heel bone that limited him to 84 games in what had looked to be a promising season (.272 batting average with 58 runs scored). He had a thrilling moment that year, hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the New York Giants. In 1941, he hit .229 and led the league with 47 errors. Even playing in the World Series that year was a forgettable experience for Reese, as he batted .200 and made three errors in the five-game Yankee win. It was in the 1942 campaign that he truly established himself, making the National League All-Star team for the first of ten consecutive years and leading National League shortstops in both putouts and assists.

Batting average (baseball)

In baseball, the batting average (BA) is defined by the number of hits divided by at bats. It is usually reported to three decimal places and read without the decimal: A player with a batting average of .300 is "batting three-hundred." If necessary to break ties, batting averages could be taken beyond the .001 measurement. In this context, a .001 is considered a "point," such that a .235 batter is 5 points higher than a .230 batter.

Run (baseball) run scored in baseball

In baseball, a run is scored when a player advances around first, second and third base and returns safely to home plate, touching the bases in that order, before three outs are recorded and all obligations to reach base safely on batted balls are met or assured. A player may score by hitting a home run or by any combination of plays that puts him safely "on base" as a runner and subsequently brings him home. The object of the game is for a team to score more runs than its opponent.

Grand slam (baseball) in baseball, a four-base hit with the bases loaded; it always results in four runs scored and four runs batted in, the maximum possible from one hit (or play)

In baseball, a grand slam is a home run hit with all three bases occupied by baserunners, thereby scoring four runs—the most possible in one play. According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the term originated in the card game of contract bridge, in which a grand slam involves taking all the possible tricks. The word slam, by itself, usually is connected with a loud sound, particularly of a door being closed with excess force; thus, slamming the door on one's opponent(s), in addition to the bat slamming the ball into a home run.

Like many players of his era, he missed three seasons due to military service. Reese enlisted in the United States Navy in 1943 and shipped out to fight in the Pacific theater of World War II. While Reese was in the service, the Dodgers languished, finishing no better than third place and as poorly as 42 games out (in seventh place) in 1943. Upon his return in 1946, Reese immediately righted the ship as the Dodgers battled the St. Louis Cardinals in a tight pennant race. The two teams ended the season tied for first place and met in the 1946 National League tie-breaker series. [5] It was the first playoff tiebreaker in Major League Baseball history. [6] The Cardinals won the first two games of the best-of-three game series to capture the National League pennant. [5]

Jackie Robinson

Reese was a strong supporter and good friend of the first black Major League Baseball player, Jackie Robinson. He was serving a stint in the Navy when the news of Robinson's signing came. Although he had little or no experience interacting with minorities—according to Reese, his meeting Robinson marked the first time in his life that he had shaken hands with a black man — he had no particular prejudices, either. It is reported that his father had made him starkly aware of racial injustice by showing him a tree where a lynching had occurred. [7] The modest Reese, who typically downplayed his pioneering role in helping to ease the breaking of the 60-year-old color line, said that his primary concern with regard to Robinson's arrival was the possibility of Reese losing his shortstop job. Robinson was assigned to play as the team's first baseman, and Reese retained his position.

In the spring of 1947, some Dodgers players began circulating a petition when word spread that Brooklyn intended to bring Jackie Robinson up from their farm team in Montreal. The players assumed that Reese, who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, would sign. According to sportswriter Roger Kahn, who later became close friends with Reese, the petition essentially said, "If you bring up the nigger, trade us. We won't play." However, the popular Reese refused to sign the petition and it died. [8]

When a sportswriter asked Reese if he was threatened by Robinson taking his position of shortstop, Reese simply responded, "If he can take my job, he's entitled to it." Reese was one of the few welcoming to Robinson, who endured horrible abuse from the crowds and fellow players, including pitchers who threw directly at his head and players who berated him with racial slurs. After spending a day with the Dodgers in 1947, sportswriter Jimmy Cannon concluded that, "Robinson is the loneliest man I have ever seen in sports." [8] [9]

When Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947 and traveled with them during their first road trip, he was heckled by fans in Cincinnati. During pre-game infield practice at Crosley Field (the then-home of the Cincinnati Reds), Reese, the captain of the team, went over to Robinson, engaged him in conversation, and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support that silenced the crowd. [8] (According to a 2013 article on ESPN, Brian Cronin argues that the incident actually occurred in 1948 in Boston.) [9]

The gesture is depicted in a bronze sculpture of Reese and Robinson, created by sculptor William Behrends, which was placed at MCU Park in Brooklyn and unveiled on November 1, 2005. In a 2005 article, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert highlighted Kahn's statement that Reese's gesture to Jackie Robinson is "Baseball's finest moment." [8]

Throughout that difficult first year in the major leagues, Reese helped keep Robinson's morale up amid all the abuse. As the 1947 season wore on, there was tacit acceptance of the fact that blacks were now playing big league ball and were probably there to stay. Reese became good friends with Robinson and was able to use humor to alleviate some of the tension and make Robinson laugh. Robinson still got pitches thrown at him, but, as Reese recounted to Kahn, "I told him, 'You know Jack, some of these guys are throwing at you because you're black. But others are doing it just because they plain don't like you.'" His role in nurturing Jackie Robinson aside, 1947 was a superb year for Reese, as he batted .284 with a league-leading 104 walks. He also had a career best slugging average of .426. Their rapport soon led shortstop Reese and second baseman Robinson to become one of the most effective defensive pairs in the sport's history. The friendship between Reese and Robinson is prominent in Roger Kahn's classic 1972 work, The Boys of Summer . [8]

When Robinson died in 1972, Reese was one of the pallbearers at his funeral. [8]

Later career

Pee Wee helped make my boyhood dream come true to play in the majors, the World Series. When Pee Wee reached out to Jackie, all of us in the Negro League smiled and said it was the first time that a white guy had accepted us. When I finally got up to Brooklyn, I went to Pee Wee and said, "Black people love you. When you touched Jackie, you touched all of us." With Pee Wee, it was No. 1 on his uniform and No. 1 in our hearts.

Joe Black, another major league baseball black pioneer, at Reese's funeral. [10]

In 1949, Reese had his only league lead in a significant batting category, topping all National Leaguers with 132 runs scored. The Dodgers won the pennant again that year, but the Yankees continued to dominate in the World Series, winning in five games despite Reese's .316 Series average and team-leading five hits.

Reese became the Dodgers' team captain in 1950. In 1951, he had his career high in RBI, with 84. In 1952, he led the National League in stolen bases with 30. That year, Reese had his best Series, batting .345 with 10 hits, one home run and four RBI. In Game 3, Robinson and Reese pulled off a double steal, with both later scoring on a passed ball.

The 1953 Dodgers won the National League pennant with a mark of 105–49 for a .682 winning percentage. Reese was a mainstay for the team, with 108 runs scored and a .271 batting average. The Yankees, however, again defeated the Dodgers in the 1953 World Series, four games to two. After the season, the Dodgers offered Reese the position of manager; when Reese declined the promotion, the Dodgers hired Walter Alston, who remained manager for more than two decades.

In 1954, Reese batted .309, the only season in which he hit over .300. Though 36 years old, he was still going strong during the 1955 season, scoring 99 runs. In that year, the Dodgers won their first World Series. Reese had two RBIs in Game 2. In Game 7, he singled and scored an insurance run. While on the field, he doubled Gil McDougald off first base after Sandy Amorós made a sensational catch of a Yogi Berra fly ball in left field and relayed the throw to Reese to help preserve the victory.

In 1957, Reese yielded his starting role to another black ballplayer, Charlie Neal. As the Dodgers moved west in 1958, Reese joined them as a backup infielder, retiring that year after batting .224 in 59 games. He coached for the Dodgers in the 1959 season, earning a second World Series ring.

Career statistics

In a 16-year major league career, Reese played in 2,166 games, accumulating 2,170 hits in 8,058 at bats for a .269 career batting average along with 126 home runs, 885 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .366. He retired with a .962 fielding percentage.

Other than his Navy time between 1943 and 1945, Reese had no breaks in service and played at least 140 games in every year from 1941 to 1956. Consistently productive, he scored at least 75 runs from 1942 through 1956 and amassed 1,338 lifetime, best of any Dodger. Though he never won a Most Valuable Player Award, eight times he ranked in the top ten of the Most Valuable Player Award balloting. He also was a home run threat during a time when shortstops seldom hit home runs. Reese amassed 252 stolen bases in a period when steals were not an integral part of the game. Defensively, he was an outstanding gloveman, leading National League shortstops four times in putouts and ranking in the top 10 all-time in putouts and double plays.

One of the most popular players with both his teammates and the fans, the "Little Colonel" was the Dodgers' team captain, and he, not the manager, brought out the line-up card at the start of their games. Reese and Elston Howard have the dubious distinction of playing on the most losing World Series teams (six each). Reese's only World Series win as a player, with the Dodgers in the 1955 World Series, occurred against Howard's New York Yankees during Howard's first World Series. No other non-Yankee ballplayer has appeared in that many World Series for the same team.

Broadcasting career

Reese in a television commercial for Gillette razors, ca. 1956.

Following his retirement as a player, Reese enjoyed considerable success as a baseball play-by-play announcer. He called Game of the Week telecasts on CBS from 1960 to 1965 (with Dizzy Dean) and for NBC from 1966 to 1968 (with Curt Gowdy). Reese also broadcast the 1967 and 1968 World Series for NBC Radio, called Cincinnati Reds telecasts in 1969–1970, and served as a part-time television analyst for the Montreal Expos in 1972.

Later life and death

In his later years, Reese was employed at Hillerich & Bradsby, makers of Louisville Slugger baseball bats. He battled prostate and lung cancer during the final years of his life, and died on August 14, 1999 at his Louisville home. He is interred at Resthaven Memorial Park Cemetery in Louisville.

Awards and honors

LAret1.PNG
Pee Wee Reese's number 1 was retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1984.

In 1984, Reese was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum along with Rick Ferrell. On his entry, his support of Jackie Robinson was cited as well as his playing performance as a testament to his worthiness of the Hall.

A statue of Reese was erected in front of the main entrance of Louisville Slugger Field.[ when? ]

A statue of Reese and Jackie Robinson was erected in Brooklyn, New York in November 2005, in front of KeySpan Park (now MCU Park) where the Mets (minor league) Class A Cyclones play. Their widows both attended the ceremony for the statue which memorializes the gesture of Reese and his teammates overcoming the racial barrier. [11]

Reese was presented with the "SABR Hero of Baseball Award" at the Society for American Baseball Research's June 1997 national convention at Louisville,Kentucky.

Personal life

Reese was married to Dorothy "Dottie" Walton on March 29, 1942, who outlived him by nearly thirteen years. They had two children, and Dottie died on March 7, 2012; just 22 days away from what would have been the couple's Platinum wedding anniversary.

See also

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References

  1. McHale, Matt. "Pee Wee Reese Dies; Ex-Dodgers Captain Led Brooklyn Team to '55 Championship" Los Angeles Daily News – (c/o TheFreeLibrary.com) – August 15, 1999
  2. 1 2 3 Baseball Digest, 1948, by Arthur Daley of The New York Times .
  3. Worldwide, CMG. "Biography." Pee Wee Reese. CMG Worldwide, n.d. Web. 10 June 2017.
  4. 1 2 Neyer, Rob (2006). Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders. New York City: Fireside. ISBN   0-7432-8491-7.
  5. 1 2 "1946 National League Team Statistics and Standings". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  6. "Tiebreaker Playoff Results". ESPN.com . September 30, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  7. "Harold "Pee Wee" Reese – Youth In Kentucky". jrank.org.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Herbert, Bob (September 23, 2005). "Baseball's Finest Moment: Pee Wee Reese". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  9. 1 2 Cronin, Brian (April 15, 2013). "Did Reese really embrace Robinson in '47?". ESPN.com. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  10. "Rachel Robinson Recalls How the Late Pee Wee Reese Helped Jackie Robinson Integrate Baseball". Jet Magazine (c/o FindArticles), September 13, 1999.
  11. Berkow, Ira (November 2, 2005). "Two Men Who Did the Right Thing". The New York Times . Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  12. Seeman, Don. "Publishing Godliness: The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Other Revolution." Jewish Review of Books. July 16, 2014.
Preceded by
Joe Garagiola
Lead color commentator, Major League Baseball on NBC
1966–1968
Succeeded by
Tony Kubek