The Times West Virginian

Sports

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
Sports
  • NMHS #28 PITCH -TS.jpg Pitching pushes North past Monarchs in game two of doubleheader: PHOTOS

    North Marion coach Vic Seccuro wanted to send a message to his team, telling them to focus, bear down and grit out a victory.
    After falling 13-8 to Braxton County in game one of a Saturday doubleheader, the Huskies bounced back to beat John Marshall, 4-2, Saturday at North Marion High School.

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • EFHS #21-OG #11-TS.jpg Bees split with Oak Glen on Senior Day: PHOTOS

    Twice on Saturday the East Fairmont softball team found itself leading Oak Glen 3-1 in the seventh inning.
    The situation was the same in both games of the doubleheader. The way the Bees’ handled it, though, was quiet different.

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • NMHS #14, 21-RC #14-TS.jpg Lady Huskies fall to Ritchie County late, 5-4: PHOTOS

    It couldn’t have happened the way it did even if No. 6 Ritchie County had drawn it up.
    The bases were loaded. There were no outs. And by a swing of bad luck a fly ball was dropped in the outfield as two runs came across to score, propelling the Rebels to a 5-4 win over No. 9 North Marion in the final game of the Diamond Dawg Tournament at North Marion High School Saturday.

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • 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

  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • Blue Jackets edge Pens, 4-3, in double OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

    April 20, 2014

  • Braun homers twice, rallies Brewers over Pirates, 8-7

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 20, 2014

  • NMHS #14 hit.jpg North Marion goes 2-for-2; Fairmont Senior 0-for-2 in tournament

    A day after an 11-0 mercy-rule victory at Philip Barbour, the North Marion Huskies were at it again.
    Chelsi Latocha threw three no-hit innings, Shelby King drove in five runs in the first inning and the Huskies rolled to a 20-0 victory over the winless Fairmont Senior Polar Bears in the Diamond Dawg Tournament at North Marion High School.

    April 19, 2014 6 Photos

  • Brewers’ Lohse beats Pirates again

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 19, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos