Before he died in 2006 at age 77, Thornton Kipper gave me a clue of life in 1950s Philadelphia as a post “Whiz Kid.”
The 6-foot-3 righty became an All-American pitcher at the University of Wisconsin. I asked Kipper about being a Wisconsin native in the majors, debuting in 1953. Did anyone he know see him pitch in person? As a Phillies veteran, could he recall the look and feel of Philadelphia’s Shibe Park and its neighborhood? Most of all, did one of his three career victories from 1953 seem ESPN worthy — a moment he was proudest of?
“1. Many times — results were usually good, although I did walk the winning run home in the ninth inning once with 50 relatives and friends in the stands. Also, pitched my first game in the majors (in Milwaukee) – a loss to Warren Spahn.
2. (Regarding Shibe Park) Terrible neighborhood, very dark, dreary atmosphere, and no parking facilities to speak of except one lot and on-street.
3. (His favorite win?) First one — in relief against New York Giants and Leo Durocher.”
Baseball is a game of irony. This career Philadelphia pitcher treasured memories not of Shibe Park, but his real “home” ballpark, County Stadium.