Wes Westrum recalled his Minnesota roots: Celebrating a decade of Baseball by the Letters via its first-ever blog post!

(From March 10, 2010 edition of Baseball By The Letters)

 

Westrum Wes 1951 Bowman
Westrum died in 2002. His rookie card comes from the 1951 Bowman set. 

Wes Westrum’s baseball heyday came in New York. He logged a decade catching for the Giants, racking up two All-Star team nods and a 1954 World Championship ring. Westrum returned to the Big Apple as a Mets coach, becoming manager when Casey Stengel fractured his hip and was forced to retire.

All those New York headlines could never match the drama of Westrum’s Minnesota roots. I grew in admiration for any Minnesota native developing as a major leaguer after reading Stew Thornley’s fine Baseball in Minnesota: A Definitive History Thornley has documented the rise of Westrum and his Minnesotan counterparts in Minnesotans in Baseball

Before he died at age 79 in 2002, Westrum sent an epic description of his evolution as a baseball player. (I asked about his place in Minnesota baseball history, along with memories of other native sons. Mentioning that my wife was born in Redwood Falls may have helped increase my chances at a response!)

Westrum wrote:

“Spent all my youth in all the sports. My father died at an early age (37). Baseball was the quickest way to help the family. I was a better football player and had a scholarship to Minnesota. Played pro baseball while in high school so I couldn’t go. Played basketball at Bemidji State Teachers one year before Uncle Sam got me.

Caught Paul Giel in his first game with the New York Giants. Great competitor and wonderful fellow. I was Jerry Koosman’s coach and manager with the New York Mets. Great person.

Russ Rolandson from Alexandria was with us in 1947 with Minneapolis Millers. He was a catcher from the College of Hamline.

Bill Dickey of the Yankees was my idol growing up in the small town of Clearbrook, Minnesota. The people of Clearbrook took up a small collection of $65 to send me to the Crookston (MN) Pirates in my junior year of high school. I made the (minor league) team.

Lots of fond memories of those days. Best always, ‘Wes’ Westrum”

The local hero did return. Westrum passed away in Clearbrook, Minnesota May 28, 2002. Did his friends and neighbors realize they were investing $65 in an all-star career? Clearbrook did in 1990, opening the Wes Westrum Baseball Museum.

One grateful catcher never forgot one hometown’s kindness.

The Two Lives of Daryl Spencer


Daryl Spencer slugged his way through TWO baseball careers.
Some might remember the Wichita native popping home runs in the majors from 1952-63.

His baseball career rebirth came in Japan for seven subsequent seasons.

The generous former Giant reflected on both baseball journeys in a wondrous handwritten reply to questions. He noted:

“The home run off Don Drysdale (first by a San Francisco Giant) was the first HR hit on the West Coast in the major leagues. Opening day 1958. Also in 1958, Willie Mays and I set a National League record of May 12 & 13. We each hit 2 home runs in consecutive games. That is still a Nat’l League record. It was against the LA Dodgers.

I guess my most vivid memory of the Polo Grounds was our last game there in 1957. The Dodgers and Giants had announced that they were moving to California the following year. We players had to make a wild dash to our clubhouse (it was deep in center field) after the game was over. The fans went crazy. They were grabbing everything they could. I lost my cap but managed to get to our clubhouse okay. Today you see fans rushing on to a playing area all the time, but that was very unusual in the 1950s.

The Polo Grounds were very unique. The short LF and RF stands resulted in a lot of short home runs. I guess the most famous one was hit by Bobby Thomson to beat the Dodgers in the 1951 playoff game. And of course the great catch by Willie Mays against Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series will always be a great moment in Major League Baseball.”

Tomorrow, hear from “The Monster” about one of Japan’s greatest stars.

Wes Westrum’s Minnesota Baseball Roots


Wes Westrum’s baseball heyday came in New York. He logged a decade catching for the Giants, racking up two All-Star team nods and a 1954 World Championship ring. Westrum returned to the Big Apple as a Mets coach, becoming manager when Casey Stengel fractured his hip and was forced to retire.

All those New York headlines could never match the drama of Westrum’s Minnesota roots. I grew in admiration for any Minnesota native developing as a major leaguer after reading Stew Thornley’s fine Baseball in Minnesota: A Definitive History Thornley has documented the rise of Westrum and his Minnesotan counterparts in Minnesotans in Baseball

Before he died at age 79 in 2002, Westrum sent an epic description of his evolution as a baseball player. (I asked about his place in Minnesota baseball history, along with memories of other native sons. Mentioning that my wife was born in Redwood Falls may have helped increase my chances at a response!)

Westrum wrote:

“Spent all my youth in all the sports. My father died at an early age (37). Baseball was the quickest way to help the family. I was a better football player and had a scholarship to Minnesota. Played pro baseball while in high school so I couldn’t go. Played basketball at Bemidji State Teachers one year before Uncle Sam got me.

Caught Paul Giel in his first game with the New York Giants. Great competitor and wonderful fellow. I was Jerry Koosman’s coach and manager with the New York Mets. Great person.

Russ Rolandson from Alexandria was with us in 1947 with Minneapolis Millers. He was a catcher from the College of Hamline.

Bill Dickey of the Yankees was my idol growing up in the small town of Clearbrook, Minnesota. The people of Clearbrook took up a small collection of $65 to send me to the Crookston (MN) Pirates in my junior year of high school. I made the (minor league) team.

Lots of fond memories of those days. Best always, ‘Wes’ Westrum”

The local hero did return. Westrum passed away in Clearbrook, Minnesota May 28, 2002. Did his friends and neighbors realize they were investing $65 in an all-star career? Clearbrook did in 1990, opening the Wes Westrum Baseball Museum.

One grateful catcher never forgot one hometown’s kindness.

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