I missed out on writing to Danny Litwhiler, who held the distinction of being the oldest Cincinnati Red until his recent death at age 95.
His statistics aren’t overwhelming. Although anyone with more than 100 career homers isn’t a slouch.
His obituary told the untold story about Litwhiler. The outfielder posed for a picture with Jackie Robinson when the Dodgers visited Cincinnati in 1948. The gesture helped quell racial tensions.
Litwhiler’s questionable knee kept him out of the military until 1945. Nevertheless, he found a way to serve the war effort.
He molded future careers for Rick Miller, Kirk Gibson and Steve Garvey as a college coach. During his collegiate career, Litwhiler pushed for innovations like radar guns and Diamond Grit to keep wet fields playable.
In 2000, he teamed with talented author and historian Jim Sargent to write Danny Litwhiler: Living The Baseball Dream.
Phillies fan Stan Price was one of the lucky ones who tracked down Litwhiler before the veteran’s health (and signing) went downhill beginning in 2009. You can tell tons about Litwhiler’s work ethic and love of the game from the photo — which Stan turned into an amazing custom card.
There are still Danny Litwhiler-ish men from baseball’s past out there. Do your homework, and you’ll find men whose biggest victories never fit into a box score.
Coming Thursday: Awesome insights from Twins outfielder Steve Brye.
Dyar Miller threw me an off-speed pitch in his kind reply. He answered questions. However, I’m still scratching my head over his first reply. Miller came up with the Orioles. What did he learn under manager Earl Weaver that’s helped him through his years as a pitching coach?
“Never hold a grudge.”
I liked his recollection of making the most of his first National League at-bat, following years of sitting for designated hitters.
“First time I took a swing, I lined a fastball past Burt Hooton. When I got to first, Steve Garvey said, ‘That was a nice swing!'”
Does Miller have a prize pupil from his year as a minor league instructor/coach? How does he convince young pitchers who’ve succeeded for years in high school and college to try his ideas? He wrote:
“I tried to help all of the pitchers I worked with. Sometimes, a good pitcher needs to fail before they improve.”
Miller’s conclusion sticks with me.
“Thanks for your interest in baseball. I have enjoyed all 43 years of it.”
The way I read this, I just enjoyed a letter not from a former player or current coach, but a fellow fan.
Readers: any guesses how Miller, manager Earl Weaver and holding a grudge fit together?