Baseball Profiles - 1
Pete Reiser
Summarized from: The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America:
The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers
Edited by Lyle Spatz
Only a handful of people who saw Pete Reiser in his prime are still around today. Those who did cannot watch an athlete streak toward an outfield fence without feeling just a little sick to their stomachs. Pete was a 5-foot-10 1/2, sinewy-strong 185-pounder who gene­rated more speed, power, and pure energy than seemed physically possible from that modest frame. The only thing that could stop Pete was an unpadded stadium wall.
Harold Patrick Reiser was born in 1919 in St. Louis, Missouri. As a boy, his friends and family called him Pete, after the cowboy movie hero Two-Gun Pete. Eventually his nickname name became "Pistol Pete."
Reiser's father began flinging pitches to his son at an early age; and at an early age, Pete could hit them. Pete's older brother Mike often brought him along to play in his sandlot lot games. Thus, at least in modern parlance, Pete spent much of his youth "playing up."
Reiser was good at every sport he tried. As a 14-year-old, he impressed a local soccer scout enough to earn $50 a game-more than his dad made in a week. He was a terrific football player, bowler, and ice skater, too; and he was ambi­dextrous. Pete threw and batted right-handed as a boy, but he could

Pete Reiser
swing around and do almost as well left-handed. His sports fantasy, however, did not take place on the diamond. Raised in a Catholic family, he dreamed of becoming a football star for Notre Dame.
was a high school shortstop. He was not big, but he was fast. He also had a pow­erful arm and a live bat, and he was unrelenting on defense. He believed there was no ball he could not get to. This was not a major issue in the infield, where players are encouraged to leap and dive and spin. In the outfield, where Reiser would ultimately play, his impru­dence would lead to his downfall.
At 15, Reiser sneaked into a St. Louis Cardinals tryout, where he out-threw and outran 800 other boys. He was disappointed when he returned home without a contract, but later a Cardinals scout, Charlie Barrett, visited the Reiser home and explained why they hadn't made a big deal about Pete at Sportsman's Park. The Cardinals didn't want word leaking out to the Browns, with whom they shared the ballpark, or anyone else. The scout also admitted they'd had their eye on him since grade school. The Cardinals knew Pete wasn't old enough to sign a contract, so they hired him as a "chauffeur."
Just as planned, Reiser was signed by the Cardinals in 1937, after high school. He played shortstop for two Class D teams-New Iberia (LA) of the Evangeline League and Newport of the Northeast Arkansas League. In 1938 Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled that the Cardinals' system tied up so many young players that it went against the interest of baseball. Landis broke up their Minor League monopoly by cutting loose dozens of players, who were then dispersed to other teams through a kind of Depression-era free agency. Of these players, Pete Reiser was arguably the best. More to the point, he was the one Cardinals GM Branch Rickey most wanted to keep.

L-R: Commissioner Landis, Branch Rickey, Larry MacPhail, Leo Durocher
Rickey contacted his one-time associate Larry MacPhail, who was now running the Brooklyn Dodgers. They worked out a gentlemen's agreement. The Dodgers would sign Reiser, hide him in the low Minors for a couple of years, and then trade him back to the Cardinals. Rickey called Pete and told him to sign with Brooklyn no matter what they offered. This kind of chicanery was contradictory to baseball rules, and had Landis learned of the arrangement, he would have stopped it.
Pete followed orders, signed with the Dodgers for $100, and was sent to Superior (WI) of the Class D Northern League, where he hit .302 with 55 extra-base hits. He was still hitting right-handed at the time, but once he revealed that he was ambidextrous, coaches en­couraged him to swing around to the left side, to take better advantage of his speed. He would hit almost exclusively left-handed for the better part of the next ten years.
Reiser first caught the eye of the Dodgers' new player-manager, Leo Durocher, at spring training in 1939. It was a hot day and Durocher did not feel like playing shortstop. He asked Pete to play the position. What happened next is part of baseball lore. Pitchers lit­erally could not get Reiser out. In eleven trips to the plate over three games, he collected three walks, four singles, and four home runs. Durocher, who had been pining for a left-handed power threat, had one dropped right in his lap-from Class D ball, no less!
Durocher started telling the beat writers that Reiser would be his Opening Day shortstop. He was ready to take the rookie under his wing. When glowing articles started showing up in the New York papers, MacPhail received a phone call from an enraged Rickey accusing him of a double-cross. MacPhail sent Durocher a telegram instructing him to stop playing Reiser-phenom or not. He needed more instruction and was to be sent to the Minor League camp.
Durocher, who hated to be second-guessed when it came to players, ignored these orders. MacPhail then boarded a flight south so he could deal with Leo face-to-face. Durocher was just as conniving as Rickey and MacPhail, but he also had a big mouth, so MacPhail was not about to tell him the real story behind Pistol Pete. An argument ensued during which MacPhail fired Durocher. The next day they settled their differences; nevertheless, Durocher could see MacPhail was serious about Reiser. He optioned Pete to the Minors as ordered.
That year Reiser suffered the first of many serious injuries he would endure during his professional al career. Playing the outfield in Class A, he felt a sharp pain while throwing a ball to the infield. He continued to play for two weeks until the pain became unbearable. X-rays showed that he had fractured his arm. He underwent went an operation to remove bone chips from his right elbow, and he played in only thirty-eight games in 1939. Toward the end of the season, he returned for a few games, throwing left-handed.
Reiser was back in class A to start the 1940 season, but the Dodgers realized he had nothing left to prove there. He was batting .378 when they promoted him to their top farm team, Montreal, and from there he arrived in Brooklyn and appeared in his first game on July 23. After a 0-for-9 start, he batted .293 in 58 games.
Reiser worked his way into the starting lineup early in 1941, playing CF. Pete started hot and stayed hot, torturing pitchers at the plate and on the base paths, while making remark­able catches and throws in the outfield. Reiser finished the year with a .343 average to win the batting crown. He led the National League with 39 doubles, 17 triples, 117 runs scored, and a .558 slugging percentage, and finished second to teammate Dolph Camilli in voting for the Most Valuable Player Award. The Dodgers edged the Cardinals by two and a half games for the National League pennant.
As good as Reiser had been in 1941, he was even better in 1942. Few who saw him in the season's first half questioned whether he would repeat as batting champ. Some -including Reiser himself - thought he could follow up Ted Williams's .406 campaign in 1941 with a .400 season of his own.

One of the many times Reiser was carried off the field on a stretcher.
In this instance, he was beaned in a 1941 game.
On July 19, 1942, the Dodgers played at St. Louis. In the eleventh inning of a 6-6 tie, Enos Slaughter belted a long drive off Johnny Allen. Reiser raced toward the CF wall, narrowly avoiding the flagpole that rose from the playing field, and caught Slaughter's hit in full stride-and then hit the concrete wall an instant later. The ball fell from his glove, and although dazed, he threw the ball to the cutoff man. Slaughter circled the bases to win the game. All attention turned to No. 27, who lay on the field motionless, facing the sky, his shoulder separated and blood trickling from his ears. When Durocher reached him, the manager started to cry. Pete was carried off on a stretcher and woke up the next morning in the hospital with a fractured skull and a brain injury. The Cardinals' team doctor exam­ined him and recommended he not return to the field that season. In the era before the effects of a concussion were fully understood, Reiser did what garners do - he returned to the diamond as soon as he could walk despite being dizzy, having a hard time focusing, and feeling weak. He would never be the same player again.
The Dodgers' lead evaporated down the stretch as St. Louis edged Brooklyn by two games. Reiser ended up batting .310, but still led the league with 20 steals. Before the injury, teammate Billy Herman - who had played with Hall of Famers Chuck Klein and Hack Wilson - said Pete was the greatest player he had ever seen.
After the season, Reiser attempted to enlist in the navy, but he flunked his physical. In January 1943 he tried again, this time at an army recruiting office. He was about to be rejected when an officer recognized him and waved him through.
If baseball was tough on Reiser's body, military life was even tougher. One day, after a long march in below-zero weather, he started feeling woozy and was diagnosed with pneumonia. Doctors were ready to issue a medical discharge when the base commander realized he had the great Pete Reiser in the infirmary. He kept him at Fort Riley so he could play for the camp team after he recuperated. Pete was excused from all duties, could leave the base virtually whenever he liked, and had his own private room.
Even on an army team, Reiser was incapable of letting up. Once, he was chasing a fly ball and burrowed right through the thick hedge that formed the outfield wall and down a ten-foot drainage ditch. He separated his shoulder and couldn't throw. So he simply threw with his left arm, as he had in 1939.
When the war ended, he was almost sent to Japan as part of a team that would play exhi­bitions to entertain the troops. Luckily for him, a base doctor looked at his medical records and was appalled. Clearly, he never should have been allowed into the army in the first place. Pete was discharged charged early in 1946, in time to catch up with the Dodgers in spring training.
The Brooklyn brass noticed right away that their former star no longer had a Major League arm. Previously, there had been discussions within the organization that he might be better off in the infield, if only from a self-preservation standpoint. But now that was out of the question. Pete's season ended early with a fractured fibula suffered during a stolen base attempt. Prior to that he had reinjured his shoulder and limped through a series of minor pulls, sprains, and strains. The shoulder got so bad that he was moved to left field, and he often threw the ball underhand. In an August game with the Cardinals, he ran into the left-field wall chasing a hit. While convalescing at home, he burned his hands lighting the oven for his wife. It just wasn't Pete's year.
Even so, Reiser could still run. He led the league in 1946 with 34 stolen bases-including seven steals of home. He batted .277 in 122 games and led the team with eleven home runs, three of which were inside-the-park. By the time he hurt his ankle, however, his swing had become hitched and choppy because of the aching shoulder. He was basically a slap hitter in the second half.

Augut 14, 1946: Reiser slides into home ahead of the tag by Giants C Walker Cooper on the front end of a triple steal. That gave Pete a new National League record with his sixth steal of home.
The 1947 Dodgers had an entirely new look. Jackie Robinson was now the man who made them go. Chasing a ball, Pete snagged it on the dead run an instant before slamming into the fence. He held onto the ball for the out, but he fractured his skull. The injury was so bad that he was given the last rites, and he lay in a hospital bed for five days.
The ill effects of the head injury - plus a sore leg - were evident in the World Series against the Yankees. Reiser misplayed a couple of balls in the first two games. He started Game Three but injured his ankle on a steal attempt. Manager Burt Shotton replaced him, and Pete spent the remainder of the Series as a bench player.
Reiser was never a regular player again. In 1948 Durocher returned to the Brooklyn dugout from his one-year suspension and saw that Pete was no longer capable of playing the outfield. Durocher believed that he could at least keep the potent Reiser bat in the lineup. So Pete was a candidate for the first-base job-until Leo saw him in action and realized that he needed to look elsewhere. Pistol Pete had gained a few pounds and was sluggish around the bag.
Reiser saw sporadic playing time at third base for a few games. Mostly he was used as a pinch hitter and fill-in outfielder. He spent much of the 1948 season on the injured list and finished with a .236 average in 64 games. After the season, Pete asked Rickey to trade him. Rickey obliged, engineering a swap with the Boston Braves. Though still no more than a bench player, Reiser enjoyed a minor renaissance in Boston in 1949. He saw action in the outfield and at third and collected 19 extra-base hits among his total of 60. He batted .271.
Pete's 1950 campaign was a different story. His average sank to .205. The Braves released him after the season. Less than a week after leaving the Braves, Rickey, now running the Pirates, acquired Reiser for the third time. He proved to be a handy bench player, hitting .271 in 74 games. Rickey released him after the season but offered him a chance to manage the Pirates' farm club in New Orleans. But Pete felt he had some more good baseball in him. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians. He functioned primarily as a pinch hitter in 1952, playing just ten games in the outfield. He batted a paltry .136 with three homers in the first half and played his final game as a Major Leaguer on July 5. The injury that ended his career was a separated shoulder, suffered while sliding. When Pete told Manager Al Lopez that he was retiring, Lopez cried. Like everyone eryone who had seen Pete in his prime, he was saddened that a good guy and great player had suffered such relentlessly horrible luck.
Pete worked for the Dodgers as a minor league hitting coach and also worked with Maury Wills on his base stealing to transform Wills into the league's top base stealer whose 104 steals in 1962 broke Ty Cobb's record. Reiser would later tutor Sandy Alomar on base steaing.
Pete also managed in the minor leagues and coached for Durocher when Leo became skipper of the Cubs.

                            Catching Up: Ted Simmons                     
His journey to Cooperstown has given him an unbreakable passion for the game.
Memories and Dreams: The Official Magazine of the Hall of Fame
by Rick Hummel
Twenty-six years ago, Ted Simmons' Hall of Fame destiny appeared to be over before it began.
But time changed that - just like it did Simmons' off-the-field journey. And Simmons is grateful for both.
"The Hall of Fame: A lifetime of waiting," said Simmons, who has shared much of that lifetime with his wife of five decades, Maryanne. "And 50th wedding anniversary, which also is a lifetime waiting, right? There's all sorts of firsts."
Simmons, who played 21 big league seasons with the Cardinals, Brewers and Braves from 1968-88 and later served with several front offices, was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee as part of the Class of 2020. He is the first player elected to the Hall of Fame by a veterans committee after dropping off the ballot after one year in the annual Baseball Writers' Association of America election, where candidates must receive at least five percent of the vote to remain under consideration.
In 1994, his first year eligible for the Hall of Fame, Simmons received 3.7% of the vote from the BBWAA electors. It was one of the first times in his athletic careeer that Simmons was not at the ehead of his class.
"I was a typical three-sport athlete and excelled in all of them," said Simmons, who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, MI. "By the time I was 14, 15 years old, the entire metropolitan area of Detroit knew who I was. 'He's going to wind up in the major leagues.' That kind of talk. ..."
On the athletic field, the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Simmons appeared to be carved from granite. Besides his ability to switch-hit, hit for power and bat fourth in a major league lineup, Simmons also was known for his leadership abilities.
"His best attributes were his strong will to win and his dedication to being out there every day," said former Cardinals relief ace Al Hrabosky. "He could motivate me better than anybody I've ever been around."

Ted Simmons with his three major league clubs.
Simmons, who remains in the game as a major league scout for the Braves, had big numbers in his career, such as 2,472 hits (second all time among players who appeared in at lesat 50 percent of their games as a catcher) and 1,389 RBI (also second on that list).
An eight-time All-Star, Simmons never struck out more than 57 times in a season, and he is one of only 12 players in history with at least 240 HRs and fewer than 700 Ks. And he was durable: Simmons is one of only six catchers with at least two seasons playing at least 150 games behind the plate (1973, 1975), and he ranked eighth all time in games caught (1,771) at the time of his retirement.
But he said, "I started out as a little boy hoping I'd end up playing the World Series and probably be elected to the Hall of Fame ... For most of the guys and girls who have those dreams, they aren't able to realize them. But I've been able to stay in this Disneyland my whole life."
In Simmons' first year with the Cardinals, Tim McCarver was the catcher for a team that won National League pennans in 1967 and 1968 and a World Series in 1967. McCarver would be dealt to Philadelphia ... after the 1969 season but returned to the Cardinals as an extra man in 1973.
"That year I came back, Ted Simmons hit more balls hard than anybody I've ever seen in the course of a season," McCarver said. "Honestly, I felt he could have gotten 350 hits that year. His outs were just ridiculous. And he was a warrior in every sense."
Simmons' defensive skills were questioned in some circles, but McCarver said, "Good catchers come in different ways. They come silently as far as calling a game. They come warrior-like from an offensive standpoint. They come in different ways as to how they help their team." ...
While still active in the game, until last December he didn't have too many things planned for late July. "I'd probably be across the street watching the Cardinals play some National League team," said Simmons, who wants to do something in baseball until the day "they vote me out."
But come July 26 in Cooperstown, Simmons will be inducted into the game's greatest fraternity - a place he will never leave.
                            Winning Record: Derek Jeter                     
Derek Jeter's talent, tenacity brought the Yankees back to the top.
Memories and Dreams: The Official Magazine of the Hall of Fame
by Tyler Kepner
Under owner George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees had made a habit of trading prospects for immediate needs.
A high school shortstop changed all that - a high school shortstop who seemed to have destiny waiting for him at Yankee Stadium.
"Gene Michael would tell everybody when (Derek) Jeter was coming through the system: 'He's not getting traded,'" said Brian Cashman, the Yankees' longtime general manager, referring to their early-'90s architect and protector of the sixth overall pick in the 1992 MLB Draft. "People would hit on Stick (Michael) about Jeter when he was in the South Atlantic League and the Florida State League, and Gene was always like, 'We're not trading him, we're not trading, we're not trading him!'"
Derek Jeter would justify the Yankees' faith. He became the cornerstone of the revival of the big leagues' glamour franchise and served as a fresh hero for a battered industry. He was exactly who the team and the sport needed, at exactly the right time, collecting five championships and 3,465 hits - sixth on MLB's career list - whle serving as a role model fans could trust.
It all added up to a spellbinding resume that landed Jeter in the Hall of Fame in January on his first try. He received 99.7 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the highest percentage ever for a position player.
"This is something that was not a part of the dream when you're playing," Jeter said at a news conference in the afterglow of the announcement. "When you're playing, you're just trying to keep your job."
Lots of players say that, but Jeter demonstrated it before the 1996 season, when he won the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award by hitting .314 with 104 runs scored. The Yankees had installed Jeter as their shortstop that spring, wisely resisting a trade that would have sent Mariano Rivera to the Seattle Mariners for shortstop Felix Fermin. But Jeter never assumed he had a job.
Manager Joe Torre happened to catch a television interview with Jeter that Spring Training. Asked about taking over as the Yankees' starting shortstop, Jeter said: "I'm going to have an opportunity to win the job."
Torre repeats the story often as a way to illustrate Jeter's uncommon humility and maturity.
"He was all about accountability and respect," Torre said," without any sense of entitlement."

L-R: Derek Jeter, Gene Michael, Joe Torre
Jeter had watched the 1995 playoffs from the bench as a non-roster player, after batting .250 with no home runs in his 15-game cameo that season. He announced his presence on Opening Day in Cleveland on April 2, 1996, blasting a home run off Dennis Martinez while hitting ninth in the Yankees lineup. The Indians were the reigning A.L. champions but with that home run, a shift in the majors' power structure was under way.
That season, the Yankees returned to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1981 - when Jeter was 7 years old - and roared back from an 0-2 hole to beat the Braves in six games in the World Series. They triumphed again in 1998, 1999 and 2000, when Jeter hit .409 with two homers to thwart the Mets in New York's first Subway Series since 1956.
Jeter was the Most Valuable Player, of course, which is how it had to be. He was the prince of the city, Superman in spikes. That's how he seemed in October 2001, at least, dashing across the Oakland infield to rescue an errant throw, then flipping the ball to catcher Jorge Posada at the plate to preserve a slim lead in a must-win playoff game. (Watch the play ...)
The Yankees would lose the 2001 World Series and another in 2003, a year best known for their rousing comeback to beat Boston in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Yankees trailed by two runs in the eighth inning that night, five outs from elimination with Sox ace Pedro Martinez on the mound. Jeter's double started their famous game-tying rally, setting up current Yankees manager Aaron Boone's pennant-winning homer in the 11th inning.
"He is the greatest competitor that I have ever had the chance to play with," Boone said following Jeter's Hall of Fame announcement. "If anyone out there epitomizes what a Hall of Famer is, it's Derek Jeter."
It was during the 2003 season that owner George Steinbrenner named Jeter captain, following in the tradition of Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly and others. The role suited Jeter, a natural leader who shared Steinbrenner's competitive ethose.
The Yankees' next championship came in 2009, in their first season at the new Yankee Stadium. In a six-game victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Jeter batted .407 with 11 hits, a career-high for his 33 Postseason series. His career .838 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Postseason was even better than his .817 mark in the regular season, and in 158 playoff games, he had an even 200 hits.
In other words, while facing the strongest competition and under the most pressure, Jeter found a way to be the best version of himself.
"Everything about him evoked winning," said his first major league manager, Buck Showalter. "With Derek, it was all about the team."
Jeter proudly notes that he played only one game in New York in his entire career with the Yankees eliminated from the Postseason - and it was his very last home game on Sept. 25, 2014. Jeter came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied and a runner at second. He lashed the first pitch from the Orioles' Evan Meek through the right side for a single, a quintessential Jeter hit that scored the winning run.
It was his final fairy tale for a player who lived his dream, and when it was over, Jeter made one last visit to shortstop, saving the stage alone as the cheers washed over him. He played 2,905 games, including the Postseason, and never played another defensive position.
In retirement, however, Jeter has made a significant move - in both location and job. At the end of the 2017 season, he became the chief executive officer and part-owner of the Miami Marlins, who have not reached the Postseason since beating the Yankees in the 2003 World Series.
"I want to win as much as anyone," Jeter said. "I didn't get into this to lose."
He has already done it once, with a playing career that helped restore the Yankees brand and draw back fans to the game. That journey ends now in Cooperstown, but the baseball legacy of Derek Jeter continues.