Wednesday, June 24, 2009

102 Year Old Baseball Fan Still Calls the Plays

Bill Rogers interviews John Pitman

The year was 1907 when the Cubs were in the World Series winning back to back titles in 1907-08. It was also the time when their infield consisted of Tinkers to Evers to Chance. In 1907, it was also the birth year for John Pitman. Now 102 years later, Mr. Pitman is still talking baseball. I recently had an opportunity to visit with John where he resides at the New Florence Nursing and Care Center in New Florence, Missouri. This is just over an hours drive west of St. Louis. He grew up in Eureka, Missouri and moved into St. Louis after his school years.

While both a Browns and Cardinal fan in his early years, he switched over to being a Cardinal fan after the Browns moved to Baltimore. John well remembers the Browns citing players from the 1944 pennant winning team, to seeing Pete Gray play the outfield to Sig Jakucki on the pitcher’s mound. He gave me a complete description of Sportsman’s Park naming all streets surrounding the park. He easily recognized the photo of George Sisler and gave me background on Sisler’s family. He did the same thing seeing a photo of Dizzy and Paul Dean.

(Pictured on left is Bill Rogers with John Pitman. Click on picture to enlarge)

A photo of Bill Veeck jogged his memory more. John related some interesting stories about Bill Veeck I never heard before. Of course there are a lot of things I never heard before so I took them at face value.

Our conversation bounced back and forth between the Browns and the Cardinals. As we walked back to his room from the sitting room, I had to step lively to keep pace with him. While he moves with the help of a walker, he was moving faster than I was walking. John’s room looked like a mini-baseball library with some great books on the sport. He insisted I take one home about the Cardinals.

I told Mr. Pitman I played baseball until I was 27 and wished I would have played longer. He said he played until he was 46 and also wished he would have played longer.

John has been to the new Busch Stadium and even dined at Mike Shannon’s Restaurant, although he thought it was a bit “expensive.”

John's daughter, Dottie Steffan, joined us during our visit along with Louise Parks.

Louise is a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Care Center. She does a variety of jobs at the Care Center and helps keep an eye on John and other residents. She gave us some Browns history and memorabilia – a letter signed by Bill Veeck on Browns letterhead showing the team’s phone number at LUcas 3385. The letter included two tickets to any Browns game. The letter was addressed to her husband’s parents when they had a baby girl in 1952. She lived only 10 days. The tickets were packed away in a trunk until a few years ago.

Louise told us later after we left and John went back to his room, he said, "I may live 10 more years after today." I said yeah just cause Mary Ann gave you that big hug." He said, "That didn't hurt any!"

1 comment:

  1. Great article Bill! I just read it to Dottie,(she doesn't do internet)... She said her dad is so happy ever since Monday, she can't remember him being so happy. Thanks again for a memorable visit with you, Mary Ann,John and Dottie.I told Mel he don't know what fun he missed ! I am so glad those tickets have a new home!