The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

May 17, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Opportunity to see birth of greatness

MORGANTOWN — Sometimes things happen and the significance of them isn’t fully grasped immediately. So it is with the approval of the TIFF financing for a baseball stadium just off I-79 here in Morgantown.

Obviously, this a boon for the West Virginia University baseball program of Randy Mazey, which gains instant creditability. Almost as obviously the community will benefit by having a first-class facility available for its American Legion program.

And, of course, a minor league franchise out of the New York-Penn League will provide a summertime diversion unlike any other that could be brought to town.

But, along with that entertainment, comes a bonus that is not quite as obvious on the surface but can best be illustrated by the story we are about to relate, one from another West Virginia town in another era, but one that almost surely will be lived out again in our city.

Once upon a time Williamson had a low-classification minor league team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. A young player from one of the bordering mill towns in Pennsylvania wanted to try his hand at professional baseball, even though his father preferred he head into the mills and earn an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

That he hadn’t finished his high school eligibility mattered not, it being common practice in the day to keep professional contracts secret when signed prior to graduation, and this contract was signed two months before his 17th birthday.

In truth, he actually led his prep basketball team into the high school playoffs after having signed a professional contract.

The teenaged pitcher went off to begin his quest for a baseball career with the Williamson Colts, a lost soul really both on and off the field.

As you may expect, this high school lad suffered from homesickness and certainly, on the $65-a-month salary a young player in a rookie league these many years ago made, he couldn’t buy happiness beyond a bologna sandwich.

The performance that rookie year was neither encouraging nor discouraging; going 6-6 with a 4.66 earned run average to go with a .258 batting average did little more than earn him an invitation back the following season.

Now out of high school, his homesickness behind him, he returned to Williamson to display far more promise. A 9-2 record along with a 4.30 ERA screamed for him to be moved along, but the good citizens of Williamson saw something more, for as he improved as a pitcher, his batting average out of that odd, cork-screw stance that later as he made it to the major leagues would be described as looking like “a kid peeking around a corner to see if a cop was coming” improved to hearty .352.

Long forgotten was the basketball interest Pitt had shown in him, for baseball was his game, and now there were thoughts he could become quite good at it.

The next year, now becoming a prospect, our player left West Virginia to play at Daytona Beach, where he came across Dickey Kerr, the honest pitcher from the 1919 Black Sox World Series who won both games 3 and 6 while his teammates were throwing the series.

He bonded with Kerr, actually moved in with him and his wife, and Kerr was there when the young pitcher blew out is throwing shoulder, consoling him and convincing him he could become a hitting star.

And that is what Stan “The Man” Musial did,

Before it was over, Musial repaid Kerr by buying him and his wife, with whom he lived, a house and by naming his first son Richard after Dickie Kerr.

As for the people of Williamson, W.Va., they too were given a gift, the gift of seeing the birth of a Hall of Fame player, a gift that now will be there for the people of this area.

Day in, day out they will be able to see the kids come through, just as they did 75 years ago with Stan Musial and watch and wonder which one will become a star.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter at bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age

    The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
    “There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”

    April 24, 2014

  • O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall

    Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.

    April 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU faithful again have a reason to root against Vick

    It would be one final indignation, that’s what it would be if Michael Vick were to beat out Geno Smith and win the starting quarterback job with the New York Jets.

    April 23, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads