Sunday, July 12, 2015

Catching up with Brooklyn Dodger Don Demeter

Don Demeter was just 21 years old when he made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. Called up in September after hitting 41 home runs at Fort Worth in the Texas League, Walter Alston sent Demeter to the plate as a pinch hitter on September 18th. Overwhelmed by the experience, Demeter went right back to the dugout after three pitches.

"I didn't even take a swing," he said in Jonathan Arnold's SABR biography.

Determined not to repeat his statuesque figure at the plate, he told himself that he would swing at the first offering the next time he was up. The next day, the Dodgers were routing the St. Louis Cardinals 15-2 by the 8th inning. Alston went to his bench and inserted him in center field. At the bottom of the inning, he led off against Don Liddle. With the count 2-1, Demeter took a mighty swing at a fastball and deposited it in the stands. 

"The next night I got to pinch hit again and the first swing I took, I hit a home run," he said. "They put me in the Ebbets Hall of Fame because I have a .500 average in Ebbets Field."

Demeter made one more appearance for Brooklyn as a pinch hitter against the Pirates. It would be his last in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform. He had another stellar season in the minors in 1957, but with his St. Paul club going deep in the playoffs, there were only a few days left in the major league season when he finished. There would not be enough time for Demeter to play again in Brooklyn before they headed to California.

Starting in 1958, Demeter played the next 10 seasons in the majors, also spending time with the Phillies, Tigers, Red Sox, and Indians. He retired in 1967 with 163 home runs in 1109 games. Upon his return to Oklahoma City, Demeter entered the ministry, where he is now a pastor at the Grace Community Baptist Church.

Don Demeter (l.) with Tommy Lasorda (r.) in 2014 - David Greenwell
In 2014, he appeared with Tommy Lasorda to announce the Los Angeles Dodgers moving their Triple-A team to Oklahoma City. At the time of this writing, he's the third youngest living Brooklyn Dodger, with only Brooklyn natives Sandy Koufax and Bob Aspromonte (who ironically debuted in Demeter's home run game) as his juniors.

Below is a video with Demeter from grandson Kendrick, where he discusses his major league career and his transition to a man of the faith.


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