Showing posts with label Washington Senators. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington Senators. Show all posts

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tom Umphlett | Former outfielder for the Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators dies at 81

Tom Umphlett, former outfielder for the Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators died Friday, September 21st, 2012 in Norfolk, Virginia. He was 81.

Part of the Boston Red Sox 1950s youth movement

Umphlett played three seasons in the major leagues from 1953-55, finishing second in the 1953 American League Rookie of the Year voting to Harvey Kuenn. He was part of the Red Sox youth movement in the early 1950s to fill the voids left by Ted Williams’ military service and Dom DiMaggio’s retirement.

“[Lou] Boudreau, the manager, was going for the young talent even in spring training," he said during a 2008 interview from his home in Ahoskie, North Carolina. “You had Ted Lepcio at third base, Milt Bolling at short, Goodman at second, and Dick Gernert at first base. I played center field, and Jimmy Piersall played right.”

Ted Williams memories

Ted Williams returning from the Korean War meant that someone had to go from the crowded outfield, and the Red Sox looked to capitalize on Umphlett’s value after his impressive rookie season.

“You didn’t have a choice, back in those days,” he said. “When a club owned you, they owned you. I was in the Mickey McDermott for Jackie Jensen trade. [It was] probably one of the best trades the Red Sox ever made. The Red Sox needed a power hitter, and Jensen did a good job for them.”

Despite only spending one season with Williams, Umphlett didn’t hesitate to identify the Hall of Famer as the best in the business.

“I’m gonna tell you just how I feel," he said. "When he came out of the service, everybody was excited. I know I was!

"I was a raw rookie. I got the opportunity to play with the world’s greatest hitter, and not everybody can say that. I saw a lot of good hitters, but as far as I was concerned, he was the best. You can talk about Mantle, Mays, Aaron; they’re all great hitters, great players, but Williams was the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen.”

A Move to Washington D.C.

Umphlett played two years with the Senators from 1954-55. After batting .283 his rookie year, Washington had high hopes for him to duplicate his Boston success. Umphlett hit a sophomore slump, batting only .219 in 1954 and .215 in 1955. Even though he would never return to the majors after 1955, this wasn’t the end of the road for Umphlett. He played in the minor leagues, mostly at the Triple-A level until 1967, when he finally hung up his cleats after 17 seasons in professional baseball.

He reluctantly traded in his glove for the managerial reins, spending an additional four years coaching in the Minnesota Twins minor league system.

“I spent 21 years in baseball,” he said. “I didn’t want to manage at first. I managed in the rookie league [in 1967], and we won the pennant. Then I managed a couple of years after that, and that was it for me in baseball.”

Honored to be a major leaguer

Even though he only lasted three seasons in the major leagues, Umphlett was honored that he made it to big leagues when there were only 16 teams.

“I was a good center fielder,” he said. “I could catch the ball and throw it. I’m not bragging, but I could play center field with anybody. It was tough to get to the big leagues because we only had 16 teams. When you went to spring training, you never had seen so many ballplayers in your life.

"There were some pretty good ballplayers, some that never got the opportunity to get to the big leagues that could have probably played there. You take a guy that probably played behind a guy like Mantle, what chance does he have to get there? He has to go to another club or change his position. I got there, and I made it. I worked hard, and I was fortunate to be there.”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lloyd Hittle, 88, pitched for Washington Senators 1924-2012

Lloyd Hittle, former pitcher for the Washington Senators, died March 3, 2012 in Lodi, Calif. He was 88.

Born February 21st, 1924 in Acampo, Hittle entered professional baseball with the Stockton Ports in 1946 upon returning from his service in World War II. In 2008, Hittle’s wife Bernice, who was assisting her husband with a phone interview due to his hearing loss, told his story of signing a professional contract.

“He had just got out of the service at Thanksgiving in 1945," she said. "He was pitching in Stockton and the catcher was Jack Hachett who played pro ball. He told him to go pitch batting practice for the Ports. He threw batting practice one day after work and they signed him up. That's how he started in professional baseball.” 

After posting a 4-2 record during his 1946 rookie season, 1947 would be a memorable year for Hittle on many levels. Before the season started, Hittle took a great leap of faith that would pay dividends more than 60 years later.

“I had a date on a Saturday night and he came over to see me on a Saturday afternoon, and asked if I'd come for a ride,” said Mrs. Hittle. “All he asked me was, ‘Will you marry me?’ This went on until about six o'├žlock. Finally I said, ‘Yes. Take me home.’ We got married about six weeks later. This was in January of 1947. We got married on February 28, 1947. We've been married almost 62 years.”

With his newly-minted wife by his side, Hittle pitched brilliantly for Stockton in 1947 winning 20 games, earning a late season call-up all the way to AAA Oakland from Class C. He was quickly on his way to the major leagues.

Following a 17-win season at Class B Bremerton in 1948, Hittle received the call from the Washington Senators to the big leagues halfway through the 1949 season.

After a rough debut against the Detroit Tigers on June 12th where he walked seven batters in 6 1/3rd innings, Hittle settled down in his next nine games, surrendering only five runs in 22 2/3rds innings, including his first victory against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Hittle pitched in 36 games for the Senators in 1949 and another 11 for them in 1950, finishing his major league career with a combined 7-11 record. Hittle’s career however, didn’t end after 1950, as he pitched another five seasons in the Pacific Coast League with the Oakland Oaks and Hollywood Stars.

While pitching in the PCL, Hittle was witness to two of the most infamous brawls in league history. On July 27, 1952 in San Francisco, Oaks’ African-American catcher Piper Davis went after Seals’ pitcher Bill Boemler after he was drilled twice earlier in the game. A fight of epic proportions ensued, spilling over into the stands, nearly inciting a riot.

Hittle’s wife remembered Oakland’s Cuban catcher Ray Noble being so incensed during the melee, that he was engaging hecklers in the crowd.

“I was in the stands and he was going to fight a guy in the stands and I remember them trying to get me and our kid out of the stands,” she recalled. “He was telling him to come down and the guy was! I was sitting in between him and this guy that he's hollering at to come down.”

On August 2nd, 1953, Hittle was pitching for the Hollywood Stars, when Stars outfielder Ted Beard spiked Los Angeles Angels third baseman Frank Kelleher setting off a donnybrook so wild that fifty police officers were called onto the field to restore order. Hittle’s wife was once again present to witness the chaos.

“I was there when they had the big fight in Hollywood," she recalled. "I knew they were all underneath the stands. You could hear them walking underneath, wondering what was going on.”

In 1954, Hittle walked away from professional baseball, but not the game completely.

“At 30 he decided it was time to quit. He played semi-pro for a number of years, until he was 40 years old when he quit playing all baseball,” said Mrs. Hittle.

Eventually, it became too cumbersome for Hittle to manage his work responsibilities for Pacific Telephone, while continuing to pitch.

“It was too much to play baseball and work for the telephone company every day of the week.”

Hittle worked for Pacific for thirty years before retiring.

In the early 2000s, Hittle survived both prostate and bladder cancer, and despite his physical problems, he was a fan favorite at the annual Stockton Ports Alumni games, throwing out the first pitch and gladly signing autographs for fans.

Mrs. Hittle, who was generous in helping not only to relay the memories of her husband, but those of a baseball wife during our interview, shared how partnering in his journey transformed her skepticism about the lives of baseball players.

“When I first met him, I thought people who played baseball for a living were crazy," she said. "I didn't know anyone who played baseball for a living. I wasn't raised that way; I didn't know anything about it. I'll tell you though, there isn't much I don't know about it now!”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Choo Choo Coleman interview

Clarence "Choo Choo" Coleman has been an elusive figure since his playing days with the New York Mets. Returning to New York after 45 years, Coleman sat down for an interview about his career starting from Class D with the Orlando club of the Washington Senators in 1955, through his time with the Dodgers and Phillies organizations before landing with the Mets in 1962.

Click here to read this rare interview with one of the favorites of the 1962 Mets.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gil Hodges' Brooklyn Dodger teammates make a pitch for his Hall of Fame honors

The Golden Era Committee meets this weekend in Dallas at the winter baseball meetings to decide the worthiness of ten veterans and executives for Hall of Fame enshrinement. One of those ten candidates is beloved Brooklyn Dodger first baseman and manager of the 1969 New York Mets World Series championship team, Gil Hodges.

During the 15 years he was eligible for the BBWAA vote, Hodges finished as high as third in the voting on three occasions, while the next nine finishing below him (1976, 1977) eventually made the Hall of Fame. Later, various incarnations of the Veterans Committee failed to elect Hodges, while comparable players such as Orlando Cepeda (VC) and Tony Perez (BBWAA) received the call in back-to-back years.

Gil Hodges / Bowman
At the time of his retirement, Hodges’ 370 home runs were the most in the National League by a right-handed hitter. He cemented the clean-up spot in Brooklyn’s lineup, guiding them to their only World Series in 1955. At first base, his glove work was outstanding, winning the Gold Glove during for three straight years after its inception in 1957.

To the small crop of Hodges’ remaining living Brooklyn teammates, his absence from the Hall of Fame remains a mystery. Ed Roebuck, who spent six seasons with Hodges in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, as well as another two playing for him in Washington, is perplexed by his absence.

“It’s unbelievable that Gil Hodges isn’t in," Roebuck said. "Even as a manager, how would you figure the 1969 Mets to beat Baltimore? That in itself should be admission to the Hall of Fame.”

Joe Pignatano, Hodges’ long-time coach with the Washington Senators and the New York Mets, also played five seasons with him in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and New York. Pignatano sees this year’s vote as a mere formality for something that should have been done a long time ago.

“It’s absurd," Pignatano said. "This is something that is long overdue. There isn’t anybody I know that doesn’t speak highly of him.”

Hodges’ tremendous character allowed him to positively impact everyone on the team, from the established veterans, to the newcomers on the block. One such newbie was pitcher Glenn Mickens. In 1953, Mickens was a rookie making the jump to Brooklyn from AA Fort Worth. It was Hodges that welcomed him to the fold.

“[He] made me feel like I belonged there … he was a complete gentleman in every respect,” Mickens said. “I never heard a negative word spoken about Gil Hodges and I don't think that he had an enemy in the world - except maybe those opposing pitchers who couldn't get him out, and theirs wasn't negativity, but actually respect for one of the best to ever play the game.”

Catcher Tim Thompson was another rookie who was a recipient of Hodges’ benevolence. Thompson made the club out of spring training in 1954 and needed a place to stay in Brooklyn. Hodges quickly came to the rescue.

“He was the most human being I ever been around in my life," Thompson said. "When I went to Brooklyn, he said, ‘I have a house for you to rent right beside me so you have somewhere to live.’ He used to pick me up and take me to the ballpark. He was a very good friend of mine.”

On the field, Hodges had a humble approach that resonated with his teammates. They saw him give the same respect to his opponents that he did to those in his own dugout.

“Gil would hit a grand slam and would have his head down all the way around the bases like he felt sorry for the pitcher," Roebuck said. "Now they point in the sky, jump up; so unprofessional! If you did that when I played, you would have been knocked down for sure.”

The newly formed Golden Era committee which is comprised of eight Hall of Famers (one being Hodges’ teammate Tommy Lasorda), five executives and three members of the media, has a tremendous task at hand to pare down the list to one or more candidates that 75% of them agree upon. Hodges’ candidacy has sparked debate for years; however, for Mickens, this vote should close the chapter on an honor Hodges should have received years ago.

“He was an outstanding clutch hitter and his record speaks for itself as far as his being in the Hall of Fame,”  Mickens said. “I believe that his induction is long overdue and it would be a terrible disservice if they pass him up.”

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gil Hodges' disciples turn up the volume on his Hall of Fame chances

The topic of inductions was a hot item during Thursday night’s Winning Beyond Winning’s 14th annual Gil Hodges Legacy Dinner at the Chateau Briand in Carle Place.

Completing the ceremonial first pitch in front of a crowd of 250-plus supporters, former New York Yankees Frank Tepedino and Rusty Torres accepted their inductions into the Winning Beyond Winning “Winners Circle”.
Mrs. Joan Hodges at the 2011 Gil Hodges Legacy Dinner

Torres, who founded the organization along with attorney Tom Sabellico, helps to educate kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, while promoting participation in athletics. Tepedino was one of their first recruits.

“At a time in my life, when I gave up alcohol, Rusty and Tom came into it. Winning Beyond Winning was a blessing,” Tepedino said.

New York Yankees relief pitcher David Robertson and his wife Erin were presented with the Great Americans Award for their community work with their charity High Socks for Hope in their home state of Alabama.

The dinner, which bears the name of the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman and New York Mets manager, served this year as an impromptu booster party for Hodges’ Hall of Fame candidacy. When Hodges’ wife Joan took the podium for the celebration of her 85th birthday, the buzz circulated about her late husband’s Hall of Fame credentials. Hodges is one of the ten candidates on the newly formed Golden Era ballot to be voted on December 4th in Dallas.

Long time New York Mets shortstop and Long Island Ducks owner Bud Harrelson discussed Hodges’ paternal influence as his manager.

“When I was with him, I felt like I was a son and I think he made a lot of players feel like that,” Harrelson said. “I fell in love with this guy. He was not negative, always positive. … He was just a good man, a family man [with] really solid principles.”

Washington Senators outfielder Fred Valentine, who played under Hodges from 1964-67, also praised  his fallen manager's character. Hodges' treatment brought out his best on the field every day.

“Throughout my whole playing career I think I gave him 100, 110 percent while I was on the field,” Valentine said. “I knew what type of person he was. He was a devoted person, a devoted manager, and he treated all of the players equally well. All of the ballplayers seemed to like the way that he managed.”

Seeing Mrs. Hodges only reinforced his belief that it would happen soon.

“I can’t say enough about Gil Hodges about a manager. I’m just praying as I told Mrs. Hodges [today], that he will make it to the Hall of Fame where he deserves to be.”

Another Hodges disciple, Art Shamsky, felt Hodges' honor is long overdue. He hopes Mrs. Hodges will be alive to experience his induction.

“It’s certainly something that should have been done a number of years ago," Shamsky said. “Especially if you look at his stats against guys like Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda, it’s very comparable. I’m just not sure why it hasn’t happened before. Hopefully at this point while Mrs. Hodges is around to enjoy some good news, it will happen sooner than later.”

Mrs. Hodges took a rare public moment to reflect on this renewed opportunity for her late husband to gain entry to the Hall of Fame. While she feels he is certainly deserving, their bond is what she cherishes above his Hall of Fame status.

“I’m going to be truthfully, very very honest with you,” Hodges said. “I have never really discussed this … how I feel about him, how over deserving [he is]. If it happens, we’ll be eternally grateful; if not, he’ll be in my heart forever.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Former New York Mets catcher Greg Goossen passes away at 65

Greg Goossen
Greg Goosen, who was one of the earlier catching prospects in the New York Mets organization died Saturday at his home in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was 65 years old. Goossen played for the Mets from 1965-68 and then with the Pilots and Senators before ending his major league career in 1970.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Recent MLB Passings, Tony Roig, Bill Werle

The baseball family lost two more of its alumni, former Washington Senator infielder Tony Roig and pitcher Bill Werle who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox.

Roig played parts of 21 seasons in professional baseball between 1948 and 1968, spending 1948-1962 primarily in the minor leagues, playing 76 games for the Senators between 1953-1956. After the 1962 season, Roig headed to Japan, hitting 126 home runs (1963-68) with the Pacific League’s Nishitetsu Lions and the Kintetsu Buffaloes. He then went on to become a scout and minor league manager for 30 years. He died October 20, 2010 in Liberty Lake, WA. He was 82.

Werle pitched six seasons in the majors between 1949-1954. He compiled a career record of 29-39 in 185 games, with his best season coming in 1949 with the Pittsburgh Pirates where he posted a 12-13 record with 10 complete games. He began his professional career with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1943, pitching with them through 1948 with a brief interruption in 1945 for service in World War II. He would go on to play AAA ball until 1961, serving as a player manager for Hawaii during his final season. This was Werle's introduction to his managerial career, as he mananged eight additional seasons from 1963-1970 at the A and AAA levels. After finishing his career as a manager, he became a scout for the Orioles and Indians for over 20 years. He died November, 27, 2010 in San Mateo, CA due to complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 89.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Get ready for a trip "Around The League" with George Case of the Washington Senators

On the field, George Case was known for his speed. The fleet-footed outfielder led the American League in stolen bases six times, including a five-year stretch from 1939-1943. During his career that spanned 11 seasons, Case had the foresight to capture action from all of the American League ballparks onto color 8mm film. Previously silent footage, Case wisely recorded the narration before his death in 1989 that guides you through the 37 minute expedition entitled "Around the League".

While Case identifies his old teammates and opponents, he makes you feel like you are sitting next to your father calmly recounting proud memories of an era long gone. There are over 15 Hall of Fame baseball players featured in this collection, and for many fans it is their only chance to see action of baseball's immortals in living color. Vivid footage of such greats as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg bring the descriptions that one may have read about these legends come to life on your screen. Add in Case's first hand accounts of the foregone players and ballparks, you will feel like you were there live in the flesh while Case was capturing it on his personal camera.

The DVD sells for $35.95 (shipping included) and can be purchased directly from his son George Case III by emailing him at

Around The League DVD Trailer

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rogelio Martinez, 91, Cuban baseball legend and Washington Senator

Former Cuban pitcher and Washington Senator Rogelio "Limonar" Martinez died Monday at his home in Connecticut at the age of 91 after suffering a fall that caused severe internal bleeding.

A legend in the Matanzas province, Martinez was just the seventh pitcher in Cuban baseball history to pitch a no-hitter, spinning the gem while a member of the Marianao club in 1950 against Almendares.

He briefly made two appearances for the Washington Senators in 1950, posting an 0-1 record with a 27.00 ERA. Martinez at the time was plagued by knee injuries which would affect him for the rest of his career and into retirement.

He lived for many years in Queens, New York after moving from Cuba in 1962 with his family. He was inducted into the Cuban Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. He spent the last few years of his life living in Connecticut with his daughter.

More Information -
He died a legend of Cuban Baseball - El Nuevo Herald (Translated)

Limonar Martinez Dies - Jesus Alberto Rubio (Spanish)