Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Random Baseball Thoughts from my Youth – In the Neighborhood

Today my mind wandered back to growing up in Detroit and Tigers baseball. I included some early memories in a post back on March 30 as the 2007 season was about to open. But this morning I was thinking about 2 baseball luminaries who lived in my neighborhood. I was able to find out a bit about them on the Baseball Historian website.

The first was Harry Heilman, a Hall-of-Famer who lived 2 blocks away on Edison (between 14th and LaSalle). I had heard stories of his exploits but most of my knowledge of him was as the play-by-play announcer for the Tigers as I was growing up. In those days, that meant live radio of home games and simulated broadcasts taken off the ticker tape of away games. And occasionally, when he was leaving home for the stadium, he would nod and say hi to any of the kids playing on the street.

His bio in the Baseball Historian points out that he was a 4-time batting champ who was with the Tigers 1914-1929. His career batting average was .342 and there were 4 seasons when he hit over .390 (1921, 1923, 1925 & 1927)!! But I only knew this neighbor as an announcer.

The 2nd player was Dizzy Trout, a right handed pitcher who was with Detroit 1939-1952. He won 170 games in his career, all but 9 of them with the Tigers, and had a lifetime ERA of 3.23. Another of Trout's achievements: He had 10 children, one of whom (Steve) followed in his father's footsteps as a major league pitcher. As I recall, Dizzy also lived on Edison (between 12th and 14th) and was the next door neighbor of our rabbi, the renowned Morris Adler. He was always friendly on those occasions when we got a chance to see him by his house. His picture, on the right, appears to have come from a newspaper clipping:

I did meet one other Tiger way back in the post-war 1940s. That was outfielder Dick Wakefield, one of the first bonus babies when he signed for over $50,000 out of the University of Michigan in 1941.

He most likely was one of the first 2nd generation ballplayers; his father Howard pitched for the Cleveland "Naps" 1905-1907.

Wakefield had one super season (1943) and then entered the service. When he returned after the war, he was never the same player. He lived about a block from my cousin Mark Klinger and we walked down the street one morning and knocked on his door. That's how I met him briefly.

So those are some of the random thoughts I was having today about the first major leaguers I ever met.

No comments: