Monday, January 2, 2012

Ted Beard, 90, second person to hit homerun over right field wall in Forbes Field

While digging through baseball’s history books, one would be surprised to find Ted Beard’s name in the same company with Babe Ruth. The 5’8” 165 lb. outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates was only the second player, the first being Ruth, to ever hit a home run over the 86 foot high right field fence in Forbes Field. He was only one of ten different players to accomplish that feat until the last game was played there in 1970.

The veteran of seven major league seasons between 1948-1952 with the Cleveland Indians and Pirates and 1956-57 with the Chicago White Sox died Friday, December 30, 2011 in Fishers, Ind. He was 90.

Ted Beard
Beard signed with the Pirates in 1942 out of a baseball school in Frederick, Md. Like many of his era, he was quickly whisked away by Uncle Sam to serve in World War II. He spent three years in the Pacific with the Army, reaching the rank of corporal. Discharged at the age of 24, he showed little signs of rust after being out of organized baseball for three years, batting .328 with the Class B York club in 1946.

Starting in 1948, Beard would shuttle between the major leagues and AAA Indianapolis where he became one of the most popular players in franchise history. In 1979, he was selected by the Indianapolis News at the starting right fielder on their all-time team, ahead of Roger Maris and Rocky Colavito.

It was during the 1950 season, his longest in the majors, that he pounded his way in to the record books. On July 16, 1950, facing Bob Hall of the Boston Braves, Beard sent the ball skyrocketing over the towering grandstand. In an April 2010 interview that I conducted with Beard, he provided a recap of his at-bats leading up to the home run.

"My first time at-bat I hit a line drive at the second baseman and he caught it," he said. "The next time, I hit a line drive at third, and he caught it."

Finally, after squaring up the ball the previous two times at-bat, Beard surprised everyone in the park with his circuit blast.

"The next time, I hit it over the roof," he said. "I don't remember hitting one that far before that."

Beard would gain another moment in the spotlight, this time for his participation in one of the greatest “donnybrooks” ever as a member of the Hollywood Stars. On August 2, 1953, the Stars were playing their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Angels. Teammate Frank Kelleher was hit by a pitch and Beard was sent in to run for him. When the next batter singled, Beard, who was beaten at third base by a mile, went in to third baseman Murray Franklin with his spikes high and set off a brawl that had to be broken up by mass of police officers. The fight was immortalized in Life magazine with a multi-page spread of photos depicting the wild melee.

During his April 2010 interview, Beard had little to add other than proximity that added fuel to the fire.

"We were side by side in the towns," he said. "One team wanted to beat the other one. There's nothing more to say about that."

Beard played until 1963 with Indianapolis at the age of 42, some 21 years when he signed with the Pirates. He coached in the White Sox minor league system until 1972. After baseball he worked for the highway crew as an electrician for the State of Indiana until his retirement.


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