Monday, June 23, 2008
HIGHLAND, Calif.—Bert Shepard, a left-handed pitcher who lost part of his right leg in World War II but went on to play one game in the major leagues, has died. He was 87.
Shepard died in his sleep Monday at a nursing home in Highland in San Bernardino County, his daughter Karen said.
Shepard, who was born in Dana, Ind., in 1920, joined the Army Air Forces in 1942 after playing in the minor leagues for the Chicago White Sox organization.
He was stationed in England and flew 33 missions in a P-38 fighter plane, but on his 34th mission on May 21, 1944, he was hit by enemy fire. He was taken prisoner by the Germans, who amputated his right leg several inches below the knee. A fellow captured soldier crafted him a crude prosthetic leg during his internment.
In early 1945, after being freed in a prisoner-of-war exchange, Shepard met Undersecretary of War Robert Patterson at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Asked what he wanted to do next, Shepard said that if he couldn't fly combat missions, he wanted to play baseball again.
Patterson persuaded Clark Griffith, then owner of the Washington Senators, to arrange a tryout for Shepard. During his tryout, Shepard wore a prosthetic leg and impressed the club so much that the Senators signed him to the team.
He became somewhat of a post-war sports celebrity, touring hospitals, visiting wounded veterans and pitching batting practices and exhibition games.
"I could move around real gracefully. One of the sportswriters said, 'There's a hell of a story,' and in about two hours, the newsreels were out there along with 25 reporters," Shepard told The Associated Press in 1990.
"I got an awful lot of publicity right away. That sort of helped me to stay with the ballclub until I could prove myself. I pitched several exhibition games and got 'em out each time."
Shepard's big moment, however, came on Aug. 4, 1945, when he was called to the mound in the fourth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the visiting Boston Red Sox. The Senators were trailing 14-2, but Shepard struck out George "Catfish" Metkovich with bases loaded and ended the inning before finishing the game.
The Red Sox won 15-4.
His line for that one day of pitching was 5 1-3 innings, one run, three hits, one walk and two strikeouts, with an earned-run average of 1.69.
Two days later, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, ending the war. The major league players returned from military service and Shepard eventually lost his place on the roster.
He went on to play with a team of traveling all-stars in 1946 and played and managed in the minor leagues and semipro baseball until his career ended in his late 20s.
Shepard turned to selling typewriters for IBM, then became a safety engineer. He and his wife, Betty, married in 1953 and moved to Southern California. They lived in Hesperia and divorced a few years ago.
Shepard is also survived by sons Preston and Justin, both of Hesperia; daughter Penny Shepard, of Oklahoma City; nine grandchildren and three brothers.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
"Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."
"You can observe a lot by watching."
"In baseball, you don't know nothing."
"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."
"It's deja vu all over again."
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"I usually take a two-hour nap, from one o'clock to four."
"If the people don't want to come out to the park, nobody's going to stop them."
"Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel."
"Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?"
"I didn't really say everything I said."
Hey Yogi, what time is it?
"You mean now?"
On being asked his cap size at the beginning of spring training:
"I don't know, I'm not in shape."
On why the Yankees lost the 1960 series to Pittsburgh:
"We made too many wrong mistakes."
On Ted Williams:
"He is a big clog in their machine."
On the tight 1973 National League pennant race:
"It ain't over 'til it's over."
On being told by the wife of New York Mayor John V. Lindsay that he looked cool despite the heat:
"You don't look so hot, either."
On Yogi Berra Appreciation Day in St. Louis in 1947:
"I want to thank you for making this day necessary."
On the American League situation:
"The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."
After receiving a check made out to "Bearer" for his appearance on Jack Buck's pregame show in St. Louis:
"How long have you known me, Jack? And you still don't know how to spell my name."
Dale Berra, Pittsburgh Pirate shortstop and son of noted linguist Yogi Berra, on the comparisons being made between him and his father:
"Our similarities are different."
Asked if first baseman Don Mattingly had exceeded his expectations this season:
"I'd say he's done more than that."
On the acquisition of fleet Ricky Henderson:
"He can run anytime he wants. I'm giving him the red light."
On a fancy White House dinner he attended:
"It was hard to have a conversation with anyone, there were so many people talking."
Don Baylor, New York Yankees DH, on Billy Martin and his predecessor Yogi Berra:
"Playing for Yogi is like playing for your father; playing for Billy is like playing for your father-in-law."
Reminiscing during a tv interview about New York Yankee battery mate Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series:
"It's never happened in the World Series competition, and it still hasn't."
After Milwaukee Brewer manager Phil Garner told him that he had said a Yogi-ism:
"What's a Yogi-ism?"
After accepting an invitation to dine at the White House this week:
"I thought they said steak dinner, but then I found it was a state dinner."
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Gary Frederick thought he had seen everything in 40 years at Central Washington University. He'd coached baseball and women's basketball for 11 years, been an assistant on the football team for 17 and athletic director for 18.
Last weekend, he learned he was wrong.
In the top of the second inning as his Wildcats played host to Western Oregon University in Ellensburg, Wash., something happened that spoke to the beauty of athletics. It came in the form of a home run that no one in attendance will forget.
"Never in my life had I seen anything like it," said Frederick, 70, in his 14th season as softball coach.
"It was just unbelievable."
Central entered Saturday's doubleheader one game behind Western Oregon in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference race. At stake was a bid to the NCAA's Division II playoffs. Western won the first game 8-1, extending its winning streak to 10 games. Central desperately needed the second game to keep its postseason hopes alive.
Western Oregon's 5-foot-2-inch right fielder came up to bat with two runners on base in the second inning. Sara Tucholsky's game was off to a rough start. A group of about eight guys sitting behind the right field fence had been heckling her.
"They were giving me a pretty hard time," said Tucholsky, a Forest Grove High School graduate. "They were just being boys, trying to get in my head."
At the plate, Tucholsky concentrated on ignoring the wise guys. She took strike one. And then the senior did something she had never done before -- even in batting practice. The career .153 hitter smashed the next pitch over the center field fence for an apparent three-run home run.
The exuberant former high school point guard sprinted to first. As she reached the bag, she looked up to watch the ball clear the fence and missed first base. Six feet past the bag, she stopped abruptly to return and touch it. But something gave in her right knee; she collapsed on the base path.
"I was in a lot of pain," she told The Oregonian on Tuesday. "Our first-base coach was telling me I had to crawl back to first base. 'I can't touch you,' she said, 'or you'll be out. I can't help you.' "
Tucholsky, to the horror of teammates and spectators, crawled through the dirt and the pain back to first.
Western coach Pam Knox rushed onto the field and talked to the umpires near the pitcher's mound. The umpires said Knox could place a substitute runner at first. Tucholsky would be credited with a single and two RBIs, but her home run would be erased.
"The umpires said a player cannot be assisted by their team around the bases," Knox said. "But it is her only home run in four years. She is going to kill me if we sub and take it away. But at same time I was concerned for her. I didn't know what to do. . . .
"That is when Mallory stepped in."
Mallory Holtman is the greatest softball player in Central Washington history. Normally when the conference's all-time home run leader steps up to the plate, Pam Knox and other conference coaches grimace.
But on senior day, the first baseman volunteered a simple, selfless solution to her opponents' dilemma: What if the Central Washington players carried Tucholsky around the bases?
The umpires said nothing in the rule book precluded help from the opposition. Holtman asked her teammate junior shortstop and honors program student Liz Wallace of Florence, Mont., to lend a hand. The teammates walked over and picked up Tucholsky and resumed the home-run walk, pausing at each base to allow Tucholsky to touch the bag with her uninjured leg.
"We started laughing when we touched second base," Holtman said. "I said, 'I wonder what this must look like to other people.' "
Holtman got her answer when they arrived at home plate. She looked up and saw the entire Western Oregon team in tears.
"My whole team was crying," Tucholsky said. "Everybody in the stands was crying. My coach was crying. It touched a lot of people."
Even the hecklers in right field quieted for a half-inning before resuming their tirade at the outfielder who replaced Tucholsky.
Western Oregon won the game 4-2 and extinguished Central Washington's playoff hopes.
Afterward, Central coach Frederick said he received a clarification from the umpiring supervisor, who said NCAA rules allow a substitute to run for a player who is injured after a home run. The clarification, however, could not diminish he glory of Holtman's and Wallace's gesture. Holtman downplayed her role, which her coach said is typical of the White Salmon, Wash. native.
"In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much," Holtman said. "It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain and she deserved a home run. . . .
"This is a huge experience I will take away. We are not going to remember if we won or lost, we are going to remember this kind of stuff that shows the character of our team. It is the best group of girls I've played with. I came up with the idea, but any girl on the team would have done it."
Tucholsky went to the doctor Tuesday. Her knee was still swollen; her trainer suspects she tore her anterior cruciate ligament. She will be in the dugout this weekend when Western Oregon attempts to cement an NCAA berth with games against Seattle and Western Washington.
Tucholsky will graduate this spring as a business major with a minor in health. She plans to continue her studies at Portland State and pursue a career in the health field. But she will never forget the generosity of her opponents in her final collegiate game.
"Those girls did something awesome to help me get my first home run," she said. "It makes you look at athletes in a different way. It is not always all about winning but rather helping someone in a situation like that."
Holtman knows something of knee injuries. On May 8, she is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on both knees, which have pained her all season. On June 7, she will graduate with a degree in business. She intends to study sports administration in graduate school at Central Washington.
Holtman believes sports has made her a better person.
She wants to give back.
Mallory Holtman plans to do that by becoming a coach.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Mamie Johnson, the daughter of Gentry Harrison and Della Belton Havelow, was born on September 27, 1935, in Ridgeway, South Carolina. When she was only seven years old, she would play baseball every day. When she left South Carolina to pursue her college education in 1943, she refused to let anyone or anything interfere with her love of playing baseball. She practiced while pursuing her studies at New York University.
In 1953, Bish Tyson, a former player with the Negro League, observed Ms. Johnson practicing on a field in Washington, D.C. He was overwhelmed by her athletic abilities. He maintained that she was a great player and suggested that she play professional baseball. He introduced her to Bunny Downs, Manager of the Indianapolis Clowns. After one tryout, Mamie Johnson made the team. What an outstanding achievement for a female athlete!
While pitching her first game with the Clowns, a batter on the opposing team yelled to her, ""What makes you think you can strike a batter out? Why, you aren't any larger than a peanut!"" Mamie never said a word, but the batter soon found out what she could do! 1 - 2 - 3 - OUT! From that day, the 100 pound baseball player had the nickname, Peanut.