One Ump Lists Top 1960s Catchers

Ask, ask, ask!

When I wrote the book Great Catchers (Metrobooks, 1997), I called out my TTM collecting skills to do some fast research. Bill Valentine, a colorful umpire of the 1960s, was the first to respond. Minor league baseball fans know Valentine as the front office force behind the Arkansas Travelers for 40 years.

Valentine sent an eye-popping response, giving his frank assessment of the men he worked behind. He wrote:

“I guess everyone has told you that Del Crandall was one of the top defensive catchers in baseball when he played for Milwaukee. Looking at his batting average, you can see he must have been, or he would not have been in a a lot of lineups. Sherm Lollar was such as a catcher for the White Sox. Both men kept the baseball in front of their body, and had quick release of the ball when runners attempted to steal.

“I liked Bob Rodgers of the California Angels. He was one of the team leaders, and he took command behind home plate. It was his game, and the pitchers threw to him. He did not allow his pitchers to argue with umpires, and would tell them that was his department. ‘Just throw the ball.’

“[On the other hand] Earl Battey of the Minnesota Twins was very quiet, but a leader in his actions.”

Tomorrow: Valentine reflects on some of the oddest receivers he encountered.

Boston Pitcher Frank Baumann Still Dreams of Being a St. Louis Hometown Hero

Pitcher Frank Baumann grew up in St. Louis. Although he hurled for the Red Sox, White Sox and Cubs, I wondered if he hoped to work for his hometown team. He wrote:

“I had the chance and am sorry I didn’t sign with them.”

I read about Baumann’s seven-hit win against the Tigers in 1961. Baumann banged out three hits and three RBI to help his own cause. Based on his batsmanship, might he have strong feelings about the designated hitter rule?

“I DON’T LIKE IT.”

Talk about heartbreak! On July 13, 1961, Baumann threw 6.1 innings of scoreless relief against the Yankees, adding his second homer of the year. The team’s loss overshadowed his day, bailing out future Hall of Famer Early Wynn. What stands out from that day?

“The home run with Sherm Lollar.”

You’ve got to love http://www.retrosheet.org/. They were the source of unraveling this mystery. Baumann was referring to the home run HE hit. However, the pitcher’s blast was back-to-back after his batterymate, following Sherm Lollar’s no-out homer to lead off the fifth inning against Bill Stafford. It’s easy to imagine the glee on the White Sox bench, seeing the #8 hitter then their pitcher break the Yankee shutout with two unlikely dingers.

Baumann (whose name has been misspelled with just one N on some hobby websites — be careful when sending your fan mail) summed up his career succinctly:

“I loved it and wish I was still in some place with it.”

In other words, Baumann, like yesterday’s featured Ernie Fazio, misses being a part of the game. A team’s speaker’s bureau? A card show guest signer? These men still have stories to tell. Someone needs to tap into this wealth of living history.

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